Inequality of Protection

| Transport

The Tesla Model S has been assessed using a new active safety system test regime implemented at Euro NCAP
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As ADAS capabilities expand, study finds that capabilities vary and all still rely on the presence of an attentive driver.

There’s an argument that people are more likely to drive a 1954 Morris 1000 more carefully than the latest 5-star NCAP rated ADAS equipped Volvo simply because the Morris feels so dangerous when compared to the cocooning confidence inspiring environment of the Volvo.

Developments in ADAS (Advanced Driver Assist Systems) have led to greater levels of perceived autonomy in vehicles and it is this false perception that is of concern to European safety testing body, Euro NCAP.

According to Euro NCAP, the findings of a study it made show a stark contrast between the current capabilities of ADAS and the perception of these capabilities amongst the motoring public.

Michiel van Ratingen, Euro NCAP Secretary General said, “Euro NCAP’s message is clear – even cars with advanced driver assist systems need a vigilant, attentive driver behind the wheel at all times.”

Testing ADAS

Euro NCAP has recently developed a series of tests in addition to its existing assessments of Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) and lane assistance. The new tests include Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), Lane Centring, an S-bend test and speed assist.

ACC automatically adjusts a car’s cruising speed in response to a slower-moving vehicle ahead, maintaining a safe distance and is tested in an extended version of the AEB test, with approach speeds that match those typically seen on European motorways.

The most challenging tests for these driver assist systems are the ‘cut-in’ and ‘cut-out’ scenarios. In the cut-in test, a car from the adjacent lane merges into the lane just in front of the test car. This is something that happens in everyday traffic and an alert driver will typically anticipate the manoeuvre early and reduce speed accordingly. For the cut-out scenario, a car in front leaves the lane abruptly to avoid a stopped vehicle ahead, leaving the system only a short time to identify and respond to the situation. These tests make use of a robot-controlled ‘dummy’ vehicle for safe testing.

Ten Vehicle Comparative Test

The new set of tests were performed across a range of suitably equipped vehicles, including the Hydrogen Fuel Cell Hyundai NEXO, a Volvo V60, the electric Nissan LEAF and a Tesla Model S. Wide variation was found between all of them, illustrating the need to include advanced active safety systems in the new vehicle assessment programme.

For the ACC, S-Bend and Speed assist tests, the cars exhibited a range of responses requiring different levels of driver input with the Tesla Model S consistently displaying an over-reliance on autonomous control.

All of the cars were found to be seriously lacking in the cut-in and cut-out tests. None of the systems were able to help and crashes could only be avoided if an alert driver braked or steered away from trouble.

Reducing consumer confusion

With the car manufacturers having taken different approaches to the application of driver assistance technologies in terms of the level of assistance given to the driver, there is a resulting confusion amongst consumers about how autonomous one brand of car might be when compared to others.

According to Euro NCAP test provider, Thatcham Research, this places greater importance on testing.

Matthew Avery, Director of Research at Thatcham Research says, “These new Euro NCAP assessments are a heads-up for drivers on what these systems can and can’t do and starkly shows their limitations, proving beyond any doubt that they are not Autonomous.”

Jonathan Newell

Jonathan Newell is a graduate of Loughborough University and has three decades of experience in engineering as well as broadcast and technical journalism.
Jonathan Newell

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