More than 70% of car drivers (in Europe) believe that it is already possible to purchase a car that can drive by itself, according to a #TestingAutomation consumer survey commissioned by Euro NCAP, Global NCAP and Thatcham Research. The survey findings are in stark contrast to the current capabilities of such systems and highlight the significant confusion that exists amongst motoring consumers when it comes to the reality of automated or autonomous driving.
As part of its ongoing commitment to independently assess the benefits of new vehicle safety technologies, Euro NCAP has tested the comparative performance of so-called Highway Assist systems available in models from European, Korean and Japanese manufacturers. The specific systems assessed were Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), Lane Centering and Speed Assist. After the assessment, Euro NCAP’s key conclusions from these tests were:
♦ No car on the market today offers full automation or autonomy.
♦ Cars on the market today can provide driver assistance but this should not be confused with automated driving. The driver remains fully responsible for safe driving.
♦ Used correctly, this technology can help the driver to maintain a safe distance, speed and to stay within the lane.
♦ These systems should not be used in situations they are not designed for and should not be relied upon as an alternative to safe and controlled driving.
♦Different manufacturers have implemented different approaches to the application of driver assistance technologies in terms of the level of assistance given to the driver.
Euro NCAP developed a series of tests to assess their performance in critical traffic scenarios simulated on a test track. For Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), which automatically adjusts a car’s cruising speed in response to a slower-moving vehicle ahead, maintaining a safe distance, it was found that in general, they perform well. However, not all systems perform equally well in tests where the vehicle is approaching a vehicle which has stopped.
The most challenging tests for these driver assist systems are the ‘cut-in’ and ‘cut-out’ scenarios. In the cut-in test, a car from the adjacent lane merges into the lane just in front of the test car. This is something that happens in everyday traffic and an alert driver will typically anticipate the manoeuvre early and reduce speed accordingly. For the cut-out scenario, a car in front leaves the lane abruptly to avoid a stopped vehicle ahead, leaving the system only a short time to identify and respond to the situation.
Tests were also developed to evaluate the Lane Centering function that continuously supports the driver to keep the car in the middle of the lane. The amount of steering support provided by each system is determined in a so-called ‘S-bend test’ at various speeds. Another test measures the amount of steering effort needed by the driver to swerve around a small obstacle on the road such as a pot hole. A good driver support system will continue to support the driver during the manoeuvre and will not resist the driver or deactivate.
All automated driving tests are performed on a test track with well-marked lanes and, for the cut-in and cut-out tests, make use of a robot-controlled ‘dummy’ vehicle for safe testing.
Speed assist is another function that will be required if cars are to become self-driving. Current systems range from the very simple, in which the driver sets the speed to which the car should be limited, to the sophisticated. Intelligent Adaptive Cruise Control (iACC) uses digital map data and/or visual data from a camera to identify the ‘local’ speed limit and, at the driver’s discretion, can limit the speed accordingly.
“Euro NCAP’s message from these tests is clear – cars, even those with advanced driver assistance systems, need a vigilant, attentive driver behind the wheel at all times. It is imperative that state-of-the-art passive and active safety systems remain available in the background as a vital safety back-up,” said Michiel van Ratingen, Euro NCAP’s Secretary-General.