Age against the machine: IIHS finds that autonomous safety systems aren’t up to human level, yet

August 8, 2018

In case you needed yet another reason not to tune out when autopilot is active, an IIHS study released on Tuesday has found that advanced driver assist systems aren’t as robust as normal human reaction time.

MORE: IIHS faults Uber for deactivating Volvo’s automatic emergency braking in fatal crash

The cars tested in the study included the BMW 5-Series, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, Tesla Model 3 and Model S, and Volvo S90, each fitted with their makers' best semi-autonomous safety systems equipped and with automatic emergency braking systems all rated “Superior” by the IIHS.

One of the central questions the researchers aimed to answer was whether or not these active safety systems, like automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control, acted in a similar way to how humans would in the same situations, and the results were not promising. When they didn’t perform as expected, the results were “irksome” and resulted in too-cautious braking or veering towards the shoulder if sensors were unable to detect road lines, according to a press release from the IIHS.

The study also found that adaptive cruise control, which is designed to accelerate and slow a vehicle based on traffic in front, was poor at detecting already-stopped vehicles, and would not react to traffic signals or other measures.

The Tesla Model 3 fared the best in the tests, while the Model S, E-Class, 5-Series, and S90 both struggled in different areas of the braking, lane-keep, and automatic cruise control tests. Tellingly, no vehicle was perfect, or even particularly close.

These safety systems, which are currently rated “Level 2” autonomy by the SAE, can certainly help a driver avoid a collision in various situations, but relying solely on them to keep you safe is a dangerous game.

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