Partially Automated Driving Systems May Fail and Cause Crashes
Millions of dollars have been invested in the development of automated and semi-automated cars in recent years. Although automated safety systems are intended to cut out driver error, an influential new report by AAA warns these systems may fail and cause serious crashes.
The American Automobile Association concluded partially automated systems do not always function properly after two years of research and road tests of almost half a dozen cars. A team of researchers with AAA tested systems from five manufacturers for over 4,000 miles of driving. The systems encountered problems every eight miles.
Researchers found the most malfunctions in systems that are designed to keep vehicles in their lanes. However, the tests also discovered many systems struggled to detect broken-down vehicles ahead of them. Test vehicles crashed into simulated broken down cars at an average speed of 25 miles per hour two-thirds of the time, the study concluded.
These results are alarming. While self-driving cars remain a futuristic concept, many new cars are now equipped with partially automated driving systems. Their drivers may come to rely on them to alert them to hazards or even to slow down automatically to avert collisions.
During the second round of tests this year, researchers found the systems had improved little on 2018’s road tests. AAA is recommending carmakers stop including the technology on more models until the glitches are fixed.
Greg Brannon, AAA’s Director of Automotive Engineering said: “AAA has repeatedly found that active driving assistance systems do not perform consistently, especially in real-works scenarios. Automakers need to work toward more dependable technology including improving lane likening assistance.”
Alarmingly, the studies suggested systems that combine steering, acceleration, and braking often stopped working with little notice to drivers. The sudden failure of the systems could be dangerous to a driver if he or she is not fully engaged and has to make an emergency decision.
AAA researchers tested partially automated driving systems on five popular cars: a 2019 Cadillac CT6 sedan, a 2019 Ford Edge SUV, a 2020 Tia Telluride, a BWM X7 SUV and a 2020 Subaru Outback SUV. The vehicles are equipped with user-friendly sounding semi-automated driving systems such as Ford’s Co-Pilot 360 and Subaru’s “EyeSight.”
The vehicle manufacturers pointed out their systems were intended to help rather than replace the driver and it is important to ensure that the driver remains engaged on the road.
Brannon remains concerned that drivers place too much safety emphasis on their car’s partially automated driving systems. He said the people who first bought cars with these systems were tech-savvy. Now, as automated systems become more mainstream, people who know less about them are likely to be relying on them, potentially believing they are more reliable than tests show them to be. He warned of “dangerous assumptions” that could cause accidents.
Brannon warned there are no standard ways for the vehicles to alert drivers when their safety systems disengage. In tests conducted on the road, vehicles struggled with systems intended to keep them in their lanes. AAA found they veered too close to other vehicles and roadside hazards such as guardrails. Tests conducted on the BMW X7, the Kia Telluride, and the Subaru Outback found these three vehicles’ systems struggled to spot a broken down vehicle ahead of them a majority of the time.
The results of AAA’s tests into partially automated cars are a red flag for auto companies including Tesla, Uber, and Google that are working to develop self-driving cars. AAA warns these vehicles face technical and human challenges. Tesla is already facing injury lawsuits over accidents in which its Autopilot system was questioned.
Apparent defects in automated systems are linked to a series of deaths including that of a pedestrian who was mown down by an Uber self-driving car while crossing the road in Tempe, Arizona in 2018.
Car manufacturers make many grand-sounding claims about partially automated driving systems on their cars. These systems typically push up the price of cars and they instill a false sense of security in drivers. When a safety system fails, a vehicle manufacturer could be liable for deaths and injuries caused by an accident. The question of manufacturer liability under the law of product liability is likely to become more important as automated and semi-automated vehicles become more common on the roads of Virginia and other states. If you or a family member suffered an injury in a wreck or were hurt by a defect on your car, please talk to our Virginia car accident team today.