AAA weighs in on auto tech and safety


New auto technology innovations are getting a black eye from an established authority in American auto safety.

Reuters reports AAA is issuing some warnings on a range of assistive driving features that may not be enough to keep drivers and passengers safe on their own.

As background, items like lane departure warning systems, automatic braking systems and autonomous parallel parking are being built into late-model cars, trucks and SUVs, with much fanfare by auto makers that, of course, want to compete in offering drivers the next biggest best thing.

Often billed as top safety features, these types of advances take some of the cognitive burden off of the driver.

What AAA is saying, though, is that relying on these automations too much can be unsafe.

The study in question looked at BMW’s ‘Active Driving Assistant Professional’ system, as well as a 2019 Cadillac CT6 with ‘Super Cruise,’ a 2019 Ford Edge with ‘Co-Pilot360,’ and Kia Telluride and 2020 Subaru Outback technology equipment.

The organization reports that researchers found a range of technology features “recorded disruptions and disengaged,” every 8 miles, begging the question of what kinds of disruptions and disengagements they found.

Specifically, study authors contended that lane centering and lane changing technologies accounted for 73% of the recorded disruptions.

Related remarks from a 2019 forum reported on the AAA website show how research groups are assessing relative safety:

“The general consensus was that AV safety will asymptote at some point, such that 100% safety will be an unlikely achievement — barring a long time frame and significant expenditure of resources. For example, in any road system, there will be instances where there is no or very little predictability as to when an accident will happen (someone randomly jumping out in front of AV). Such crashes will be very difficult to prevent due to randomness and the allowance of time and space. As such, the focus should be on determining what is safe enough for public use such that near term gains can be reaped. With regards to benchmarking, there was some suggestion that the systems should be at least as safe as the human driver.”

This comes at the same time that prominent fatalities in autonomous car testing are setting that industry back years.

The takeaway for drivers is that although these features may be convenient and comforting, you still have to keep your eyes on the road.