BOISE – Advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) use a combination of cameras, LIDAR and RADAR to “see” the road and perform driving tasks such as Lane Keeping Assistance, Adaptive Cruise Control, and Automatic Emergency Braking under certain conditions. As drivers gain familiarity with these systems, they become more comfortable with the technology over time – in some cases, perhaps too comfortable.
In a new study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, 30 drivers who had never operated an ADAS-equipped vehicle used one for 6-8 weeks on highways and were assessed before, during, and after on their behavior and attitudes surrounding the technology.
“The AAA Foundation findings from this research are a cautiously positive sign for the future of vehicle automation,” said Dr. David Yang, president and executive director of the AAA Foundation. “As drivers become more comfortable with the technology, they will be more likely to use it, which could lead to safer and more efficient transportation. But they must use it properly and understand the system’s limitations.”
Over the course of the study, as drivers became more familiar with advanced safety features, they were more likely to multitask while the vehicle was in partial control, with an increase in the frequency of system warnings reminding them to pay attention.
“Because the current level of ADAS is designed to assist human drivers rather than replace them, there’s a happy medium where the driver is relaxed, but still vigilant and ready to take over,” says AAA Idaho public affairs director Matthew Conde. “Our research will help vehicle manufacturers better understand driver behavior as they strive to harness the full potential of this technology.”
Initially, study participants were much more attentive while driving an ADAS-equipped vehicle, perhaps because they were uncertain how the technology would perform in certain situations. In later surveys, they reported lower stress levels and greater enjoyment while using it. The vehicles were equipped with Level 2, or Partial, Automation.
Drivers in the study were also more likely to disengage the technology during times of heavy traffic or bad weather.
AAA’s groundbreaking study consisted of experimental research to train the drivers how to use ADAS on a closed course, a 6-8 week driving experience with data recorders and cameras tracking driver activity, and surveys to gauge perceptions and attitudes about the technology. The result is one of the most comprehensive ADAS studies to incorporate real-world scenarios.
A AAA Foundation report released in August estimates that current ADAS technologies could prevent as many as 37 million crashes, 14 million injuries, and 250,000 deaths on U.S. roads over the next 30 years. However, because an estimated 850,000 lives could still be lost over that time period, AAA urges vehicle manufacturers to continue innovating and enhancing safety features.
AAA’s research reinforces the importance of the Safe System Approach, which notes that while humans make mistakes, death and serious injuries on the roads are unacceptable. When used in cooperation with safe road users and well-designed infrastructure, advanced driver assistance systems have the potential to dramatically enhance the safe transport of people and products.
“Until we can rely on fully autonomous vehicles – which may not available for years to come – there’s no substitute for an engaged driver,” Conde said. “No matter how many bells and whistles your vehicle may currently have, there will be times when the technology will defer to your judgment. For your own safety and that of other road users, please keep your focus on good driving habits.”