AAA says skepticism in autonomous driving features is ‘justified’ after testing Tesla’s Autopilot

The American Automobile Association (AAA) says automakers should focus on perfecting their current driving assistance systems before developing a self-driving car.

In their latest round of testing assisted driving technology, AAA evaluated a 2021 Subaru Forester with EyeSight, 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe with Highway Driving Assist, and a 2020 Tesla Model 3 with Autopilot.

The vehicles and systems were put through their paces in four different scenarios, including:

  • overtaking a dummy car traveling in the same direction as the tested vehicle,
  • overtaking a dummy cyclist heading in the same direction,
  • confronting a dummy car on a head-on collision course at 25 miles per hour, and
  • avoiding a dummy bicycle rider crossing the test car’s path.

According to AAA, all three tested vehicles identified and avoided colliding with dummy automobiles and bicycles that were driving in the same direction as the tested vehicles. Although they did note that a collision occurred for the Subaru in 5 out of 15 test runs, or 33% of the time for when a cyclist crossed the travel lane of the test vehicle.

The scenario involving a head-on collision was a different story. Both the Hyundai and Subaru failed to detect or slow down for the foam dummy vehicle in all 15 tests the AAA conducted.

The Model 3 also failed, but performed the best by automatically hitting the brakes and slowing down to 3.2mph (5.1km/h) or less each time before making impact with the foam car, according to Reuters.

AAA says the results of their testing show automakers need to improve advanced driver assistance technology already present on their vehicles before moving on to future technology like self-driving cars.

“You can’t sell consumers on the future if they don’t trust the present. And drivers tell us they expect their current driving assistance technology to perform safely all the time. But unfortunately, our testing demonstrates spotty performance is the norm rather than the exception,” said Greg Brannon, director of AAA’s automotive engineering.

This is the third time AAA has tested these systems over the last few years. The tests were conducted on closed courses at AAA Northern California, Nevada, and Utah’s GoMentum Station proving ground in Concord, California.

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