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IIHS Study Reminds Us Self-Driving Cars Are Way Off, Current Systems Not Great Either

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Sometimes, we as a people get way ahead of ourselves, and that gets us in trouble. The big way that we in the car industry do so is with self-driving cars. Really, we should get a reminder when we check our calendars in the morning: the time is 10 a.m.; don’t forget your daughter has soccer practice this evening; we don’t have self-driving cars yet.

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This last point is partly the subject of a recent study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The rest of the study was the IIHS looking at just how good current carmakers are with their Level 2 car systems.

dynamic radar cruise control

Autonomy levels

Car autonomy levels are meay braked abruptly and hard. However, in previous road tests, IIHS engineers saw these systems fail or perform poorly. One engineer using the Mercedes system saw it detect a pickup at a stop light, then lose track of it and continue at high speed. Another in the Tesla Model 3 noted it would occasionally slow down mildly for tree shadows, people crossing the road far ahead, and cars in the other lane.

Active lane keeping tests were not nearly as good. The IIHS testers focused on problem spots for these systems — hills and curves. Only one vehicle stayed between the lines on all the tests. Others would lose the markings going over the crest of hills and veer from side to side, crossing into the other lane or off the road. Some turned off their lane keeping assist system on their own, only turning back on when the car found the lanes again.

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Summing it up, IIHS Chief Research Officer David Zuby said, “We’re not ready to say yet which company has the safest implementation of Level 2 driver assistance, but it’s important to note that none of these vehicles is capable of driving safely on its own. A production autonomous vehicle that can go anywhere, anytime isn’t available at your local car dealer and won’t be for quite some time. We aren’t there yet.”

News Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Forbes