Driver Assistance Systems Save Lives

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New research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety projects that available driver assistance technologies could prevent approximately 37 million crashes, 14 million injuries, and nearly 250,000 deaths over the next 30 years. This would represent 16% of crashes and injuries and 22% of deaths that would otherwise occur on U.S. roads without these technologies.

Find the full report and report summary at the AAA Foundation website.

Advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) are the eyes and ears of your car. They use sensors and cameras to detect potential hazards, warn drivers, and can take corrective action automatically. These safety systems are common on new vehicles, and include forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, lane keeping assistance, and blind spot monitoring.

“The findings from this latest study on the AAA Foundation’s work in emerging technologies suggest that ADAS have the potential to transform road safety,” said Dr. David Yang, president and executive director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “However, the full safety benefits of ADAS will not be realized unless they are fully understood by the consumer, used properly, and widely adopted.”

The future safety benefits of ADAS could be larger or smaller, depending on many factors, including the rates of consumer use, use, the future development of these technologies, and many other factors. But technology limitations still exist, and while ADAS may save 250,000 lives over the next 30 years, nearly 900,000 lives will be lost on our roads if current trends continue.

Traffic deaths have spiked in the last two years, with more than 42,000 traffic deaths in the U.S. in 2021 and again in 2022, the highest levels in 16 years. In Oregon, there were 599 traffic deaths in 2021 and 600 in 2022, according to the Oregon Department of Transportation Crash Statistics & Reports.

“ADAS have the potential to increase safety and save lives on our roadways. But they are not a substitute for an attentive driver and good driving behaviors. Drivers have to understand how these systems work and what their limitations are. And these technologies have to be part of a holistic approach to traffic safety as tech alone can’t prevent traffic injuries and deaths,” says Marie Dodds, public affairs director of AAA Oregon/Idaho.

The AAA Foundation’s research reinforces the importance of the Safe System Approach (SSA). It’s a strategic way of leveraging the engineering and behavioral countermeasures proven effective at preventing traffic crashes and the injuries that can result from them. Learn more about the SSA at the U.S. Department of Transportation website.

How these systems work – a few of the most common ADAS

  • Detects a potential collision with a vehicle ahead and alerts the driver. Some systems also provide alerts for pedestrians or other objects.
  • Cruise control that also assists with acceleration and braking to maintain a driver-selected gap to the vehicle in front. Some systems can come to a stop and continue, while others cannot.
  • Detects potential collisions with a vehicle ahead, provides forward collision warning, and automatically brakes to avoid a collision or lessen the severity of impact. Some systems also detect pedestrians or other objects.
  • Monitors vehicle’s position within the driving lane and alerts the driver as the vehicle approaches or crosses lane markers.
  • Provides steering support to assist the driver in keeping the vehicle in the lane. The system reacts only when the vehicle approaches or crosses a lane line or road edge.
  • Detects vehicles in the blind spot while driving and notifies the driver of their presence. Some systems provide an additional warning if the driver activates the turn signal.

ADAS are considered to be Level 2 partially automated systems and require the driver to be fully engaged in the driving task at all times. While these technologies can assist with acceleration, braking and steering, drivers have their hands on the steering wheel and are still in control of the vehicle.

ADAS works to form a vehicle’s “safety net.” The study found that the safety benefits of ADAS will vary depending on the type of system and how it is used. Last year, AAA engineers examined automatic emergency braking systems, which effectively prevent rear-end crashes but less so when encountering bicyclists or vehicles crossing paths.

Full automation, Level 4 and 5, are not currently available in the U.S. For 2024, Mercedes-Benz EQS sedan and S-Class will be the first U.S. models to have Level 3 autonomous driving. This system, called Drive Pilot, will handle most driving duties but still requires the driver to be able to take over at any time. As of now, Nevada and California are the only states where this system has gotten regulatory approval.

Find out more about the levels of automation at the Society of Automobile Engineers (SAE) website.

Source: AAA

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