Tests of automated driving systems show drivers shouldn't rely on them

More than 70% of drivers think they can buy a car that can drive itself, but the first independent tests of 'autonomous' systems show they can’t always be relied upon to prevent accidents...

Volvo V60 AEB crash test

The tests undergone by the 10 cars were developed by Thatcham. Euro NCAP will be grading automated technology by 2020, but Thatcham’s initial testing is aimed at raising the issues it sees as problematic with the new technology.

The main NCAP five-star safety rating will remain, and there will be a separate rating for assisted driving, one of three ratings will be given to cars, likely to be Basic, Advanced and Superior. They will be split into three areas:

1. On the Road

Cars will be rated on how well the systems are able to read white lines on the road and if they can they can take onboard external information, such as speed limits on motorway gantries.

2. At the test track

These will consider how much drivers will rely on the ADAS and will include stopping behind a stationary vehicle from more than 40mph, avoiding a pothole, reacting to a car cutting in or out ahead and assessing how well cars can take corners while keeping in its lane.

3. Desk-based rating

This will look at how car makers market ADAS technology systems. Those that are described as providing driver assistance will fare better than those where autonomous functionalities are mentioned.

Test results:

Audi A6

2018 Audi A6 – price, specs and release date

Standard active safety system: Adaptive Cruise Assist

  • Supports the driver up to 50mph and stops the car from speeds up to 37mph when approaching a stationary car. 
  • Allows the driver to steer around a pothole, then reactivates. 
  • Reacts quickly to the driver releasing the steering wheel and gives plenty of warning before the ACC is deactivated and the car is brought to a controlled stop. 

Hands-off ACC warning timeline

Audi A6 hands off warning timelineBMW 5 Series

Standard active safety system: Active Driving Assist Plus

  • ACC stops the car from hitting a stationary car at speeds up to 37mph and AEB assists at up to 50mph. 
  • The driver is able to swerve around a pothole, and the system kicks back in afterwards. 
  • A visual hands-off warning cuts in early, and an audible one occurs much later. If ignored, the ACC shuts down but doesn't bring the car to a stop. 

Hands-off ACC warning timeline

BMW 5 Series hands off warning timelineDS 7 Crossback

Standard active safety system: Connected Pilot

  • ACC doesn't respond to stationary cars. AEB gives assistance at speeds up to 50mph, but not full support, so the driver must act to avoid a collision. 
  • Lets the driver steer around a pothole and then continues to work. 
  • The hands-off warning activates, but if the driver doesn't respond to it, the system simply shuts down

Hands-off ACC warning timeline

DS 7 Crossback hands-off warning timeline2018 Ford Focus verdict

Standard active safety system: Co-Pilot 360 

  • ACC prevents the Focus from hitting a stationary car at up to 50mph and AEB provides assistance up to the maximum speed tested. 
  • The driver can interrupt the system to avoid a pothole, after which the system resumes. 
  • Hands-off warnings appear quickly, and if these are ignored the car is stopped in a controlled manner. 

Hands-off ACC warning timeline

Ford Focus hands off warning timelineHyundai Nexo front

Standard active safety system: Smart Cruise Control & Lane Following Assist

  • ACC prevents a collision with a stationary car at speeds below 38mph, while AEB provides support at up to 75mph. 
  • The driver can interrupt the system to avoid a pothole; after this, the system resumes. 
  • Audible and visual warnings are given soon after the driver lets go of the wheel; ACC shuts down if warnings are ignored, but the car isn't brought to a stop. 

Hands-off ACC warning timeline

Hyundai Nexo hands off warning timeline

Also consider