Most Partial Driving Automation Systems Fail IIHS Safeguard Tests

Technology falls short as drivers over-rely on automation

March 18, 2024 Photo

A new ratings program introduced by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) to encourage automakers to incorporate more robust safeguards into their partial driving automation systems found that only one out of 14 systems tested earned an “acceptable” rating. Two were rated “marginal,” and the remaining 11 were rated “poor.”

According to IIHS, the Lexus LS Teammate system is the only system tested to earn an “acceptable” rating. “The GMC Sierra and Nissan Ariya are both available with partial automation systems that earn marginal ratings,” the report continues. “The LS and Ariya each offer an alternative system that earns a poor rating. The Ford Mustang Mach-E, Genesis G90, Mercedes-Benz C-Class sedan, Tesla Model 3 and Volvo S90 also earn poor ratings, in some cases for more than one version of partial automation.”

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Scores were awarded based on “a battery of tests conducted over multiple trials,” and some performance areas are weighted more heavily than others.

Partial Automation Systems

“Today’s partial automation technology—which includes designated systems like Tesla’s Autopilot and GM’s Super Cruise, as well as feature bundles that provide similar capabilities—uses cameras, radar, or other sensors to ‘see’ the road and other vehicles,” according the report. “It combines adaptive cruise control (ACC), lane centering, and various other driver-assistance features.”

The IIHS ratings system is meant to “encourage safeguards that can help reduce intentional misuse and prolonged attention lapses, as well as to discourage certain design characteristics that increase risk in other ways—such as systems that can be operated when automatic emergency breaking (AEB) is turned off or seat belts are unbuckled.”

The significant areas that were tested by the IIHS included driver monitoring, attention reminders, emergency procedures, driver involvement, and safety features. The IIHS states, “While most partial automation systems have some safeguards in place to help ensure drivers are focused and ready, these initial tests show that they’re not robust enough.” IIHS, however, expects improvements after these results to be rapid.

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Commenting on the IIHS findings, CLM Member Floyd Cottrell, partner, Rawle & Henderson, LLP, says, “The laws on motor vehicle liability and products liability are fast reaching an intersection, with plaintiffs beginning to argue both that the vehicle is defective for weaknesses in crash avoidance technology, compounded by operator error. It is becoming an issue for manufacturers, as well as for fleet managers and rental car companies responsible for how their vehicles are equipped.

“As the IIHS study shows, there is a counterargument that the technology is helpful but in its present state creates its own problems of drivers over-relying on it. For example, it is fair to ask whether a driver relied on the vehicle’s blind-side detection system rather than a visual check that the adjacent lane is clear before moving over. The technology certainly expands areas of questioning of drivers of late model cars at deposition.”

About The Authors
Angela Sabarese

Angela Sabarese, Associate Editor of CLM.

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