Survey Suggests Most Motorists Dig Advanced Driving Aids

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

A survey released by Consumer Reports this week indicated that a majority of motorists (57 percent) believed that the advanced driving aids their vehicles had actively helped them avoid a crash. The survey, which incorporated data on roughly 72,000 vehicles from the 2015-19 model years, asked drivers to weigh in on a multitude of safety systems — including forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, blind spot alerts, and more. While not all of these features had majority support, tabulating them as a whole showed at least half of the people using advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) saw some value in them.

Our opinions on these systems have been thoroughly mixed. While we’ve found most advanced driving aids to be inconsistent in their operation, sometimes befuddled by fog or a vehicle encrusted with roadway grime, we’ll happily admit that adaptive cruise control offers more utility than the standard on/off inclusions of yesteryear. But we’ve also seen disheartening reports that semi-autonomous features dull a good driver’s senses to a point that effectively makes them a worse motorist and would be lying if we said we trusted any of these systems implicitly.

However, the fact remains that they could save lives — especially in moments where a driver is not being their best self on the road or find themselves caught completely off guard. That’s basically the position Consumer Reports is taking and it seems to have made up its mind about how pervasive ADAS should be within the auto industry.

“Cars can do so much today to keep their drivers and passengers safe, and we want to push the industry to make these systems commonplace for all drivers,” said Jake Fisher, senior director of auto testing for Consumer Reports. “Our survey results show that in the real world, these systems are creating positive outcomes in situations that only a few short years ago would have ended in costly and tragic results.”

While compelling, a lot of CR’s backing for its clams were anecdotal. Even the survey results hinged on respondents feeling that the car did something a human could not. That doesn’t necessarily make them wrong, but it isn’t the same as having definitive proof. Fortunately, CR incorporated some data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) on forward collision warning (FWC), automatic emergency braking (AEB), and blind spot warnings (BSW) to help strengthen its position.

From CR:

IIHS data shows that vehicles equipped with FCW and AEB have 50 percent fewer front-to-rear crashes compared with cars without the systems.

Cars equipped with rear automatic braking, along with rearview cameras and parking sensors, had 78 percent fewer crashes compared with cars without those three systems, says David Aylor, IIHS manager of active safety testing.

Given the rate of growth for AEB in cars sold in the U.S., some 28,000 crashes and 12,000 injuries could be prevented by 2025, the IIHS says.

Of survey respondents participating in Consumer Reports’ study, 47 percent claimed forward collision warning and/or automatic emergency helped to prevent a crash. Meanwhile, 60 percent said the same for blind spot warnings, 31 percent felt lane departure warnings were helpful, and 52 percent dug rear cross traffic alerts/braking.

However, with just 19 percent of the public’s support, adaptive cruise control was the outlier. CR said this wasn’t as big of an issue because cruise control is a “convenience feature and not a safety feature.” But we’re inclined to disagree. Modern versions of adaptive cruise control frequently work in tandem with other driver assistance systems and can help people avoid tailgating — which is as dangerous as it is obnoxious.

In general, CR’s take echoes what the American Automobile Association said last October. However, the AAA study also noted that most surveyed drivers didn’t understand the technology in the slightest with some being unaware that their ride even possessed such features.

If you’re interested in more information or want to peruse some of the relevant anecdotes, we encourage you to check out the CR survey results for yourself. We’d also love to hear your opinions on the matter in the comments.

[Image: Toyota]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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2 of 22 comments
  • Jkross22 Jkross22 on Jun 27, 2019

    My anecdotal experience is that safety systems are making drivers lazier. Most people in So Cal. DO NOT USE TURN SIGNALS. I mean ffs. If I don't know what you're going to do, that's a big safety issue. And I'm the a-hole BMW driver? C'mon. Well ok, I am an a-hole, but at least I use my freaking turn signals. I do like back up cameras and I do like auto emergency braking as long as it's calibrated correctly, but that's about it.

  • Blackcloud_9 Blackcloud_9 on Jun 27, 2019

    "While compelling, a lot of CR’s backing for its clams were anecdotal." Why do you say this? Was CR being "crabby"? Or perhaps you were looking for a few more "pearls" of wisdom? Or how about just "fishing" for compliments.

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