Auto safety group gives most hands-free driving systems ‘poor’ ratings

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) announced Tuesday that nearly all partial driving automation systems received “poor” ratings in a new ratings program designed to improve safety on the road.

The IIHS, an auto safety group, released the results of the first round of testing from its new ratings program. Of the 14 systems evaluated, 11 were rated “poor,” two were rated “marginal,” and one was rated “acceptable.” None received a “good” rating.

“We evaluated partial automation systems from BMW, Ford, General Motors, Genesis, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Tesla and Volvo. Most of them don’t include adequate measures to prevent misuse and keep drivers from losing focus on what’s happening on the road,” IIHS President David Harkey said in the announcement of the ratings.

The auto safety group evaluated 14 systems, some of which were used by the same automaker.

The Lexus Teammate with Advanced Drive system received an overall “acceptable” rating. IIHS evaluated a second Lexus system, however — the Lexus Dynamic Radar Cruise Control with Lane Tracing Assist — which received a “poor” rating.

The Nissan ProPILOT Assist with Navi-link, used in the 2023-24 Nissan Ariya, received a “marginal” overall rating, but the other Nissan system — the Nissan ProPILOT Assist 2.0 — received a “poor” rating.

The General Motors Super Cruise, used in the 2023-24 GMC Sierra, received a “marginal” rating.

The other systems that received “poor” ratings are BMW Active Driving Assistant Pro, Ford BlueCruise, Ford Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop & Go and Lane Centering Assist, Genesis Highway Driving Assist 2, Genesis Smart Cruise Control/Lane Following Assist, Mercedes-Benz Active Distance Assist DISTRONIC with Active Steering Assist, and Volvo Pilot Assist.

The Tesla Autopilot, Version 2023.7.10, and the Tesla Full Self-Driving (Beta), Version 2023.7.10, also received “poor” ratings, but IIHS noted that those two systems were evaluated before the most recent recall in December 2023.

The new ratings system comes amid heightened concerns about the rapid development of partially automated driving systems.

Experts have also raised concerns that the widespread, casual use of the phrase “self-driving” to refer to the systems might lead to heightened safety issues. All of the systems require drivers to keep both hands on the wheel while in use and to remain alert.

“Partial driving automation is a convenience feature that is meant to make long drives easier. There’s no evidence that it makes driving safer, and, in fact, it can create new risks by making it easier for the driver’s attention to wander,” according to the ratings system description.

The new IIHS ratings system incorporates some of these concerns into the categories on which the systems are evaluated.

The ratings categories evaluate driver monitoring, attention reminders, emergency procedures and other aspects of system design.

Harkey said that while the overall poor results are “worrying,” he was optimistic about the potential for tweaks to be made.

“These results are worrying, considering how quickly vehicles with these partial automation systems are hitting our roadways,” Harkey said. “But there’s a silver lining if you look at the performance of the group as a whole. No single system did well across the board, but in each category at least one system performed well. That means the fixes are readily available and, in some cases, may be accomplished with nothing more than a simple software update.”

The Hill has reached out to all companies evaluated in the report.

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