Study: Driving Tech Fails Every 8 Miles

Stumbling blocks with partially automated systems suggest the fully self-driving car is a long way away. 

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DENVER (Aug. 6, 2020) - Vehicles that rely on advanced, partially automated driving technology experience some type of issue every eight miles, on average. That's the key takeaway from the latest research from AAA's automotive research division, which found that available technologies had difficulty keeping vehicles in their lane and away from other vehicles or guardrails. While these system failures did not result in a crash or other catastrophe in real-world driving conditions, AAA's research makes it clear that the foundational technologies for fully self-driving vehicles still require significant driver intervention. 

AAA also found that active driving assistance systems that combine vehicle acceleration with braking and steering often disengage with little notice, almost instantly handing control back to the driver. That can spell disaster if a driver has become disengaged from the driving task or has become too dependent on the system – real risks, given that previous AAA research found that 40 percent of Americans believe that partially automated systems can fully handle driving, and that these technologies commonly lead to driver complacency

Active driving assistance, classified as Level 2 Driving Automation on a scale of six (0-5) by the SAE International, are advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) that provide the highest level of automated vehicle technology available to the public today. For many drivers, their first or only interaction with vehicle automation is through these types of systems – which are far from 100 percent reliable, per AAA's research. 

"No matter how they're advertised, AAA has repeatedly found that active driving assistance systems do not perform consistently, especially in real-world scenarios," said Skyler McKinley, director of public affairs for AAA Colorado. "It's up to the manufacturers to work toward more dependable technology, while drivers should know the limitations of the safety tools that increasingly come standard on new cars." 

Key Findings

AAA tested the functionality of active driving assistance systems in both real-world conditions and a closed-course system to determine how well they responded to common driving scenarios. On public roadways, 73 percent of errors involved instances of lane departure or erratic lane position – although the test vehicles were never at an immediate risk of collision. While AAA's closed-course testing found that the systems performed mostly as expected, they were challenged when approaching a simulated disabled vehicle. In this test scenario, in aggregate, a collision occurred 66 percent of the time with an average impact speed of 25mph. 

"Active driving assistance systems are designed to assist the driver and make roads safer, but it's important to clarify that these systems are in very early stages of their development," McKinley said. "Given the number of issues revealed by our research, it's unclear how these systems enhance the driving experience in their current form. In the long run, a bad experience with current technology may set back public acceptance of more fully automated vehicles in the future." 

AAA's 2020 automated vehicle survey found that only one in ten drivers (12 percent) would trust riding in a self-driving car. To increase consumer confidence in future automated vehicles, car manufacturers must perfect functionality as much as possible before deployment in their larger fleets. AAA meets regularly with industry leaders to provide testing insights and recommendations for improvement. 


AAA conducted closed-course testing and naturalistic driving in partnership with the Automobile Club of Southern California’s Automotive Research Center and AAA Northern California, Nevada and Utah’s GoMentum Proving Grounds. Using a defined set of criteria, AAA selected the following vehicles for testing:  2019 BMW X7 with “Active Driving Assistant Professional”, 2019 Cadillac CT6 with “Super Cruise™”, 2019 Ford Edge with “Ford Co-Pilot360™”, 2020 Kia Telluride with “Highway Driving Assist” and 2020 Subaru Outback with “EyeSight®” and were sourced from the manufacturer or directly from dealer inventory. The 2019 Cadillac CT6 and the 2019 Ford Edge were evaluated only within naturalistic environments. For specific methodology regarding testing equipment, closed-course test scenarios and naturalistic routes, please refer to the full report here.

About AAA – The Auto Club Group

AAA Colorado is a proud part of The Auto Club Group (ACG), the second-largest AAA club in North America with more than 14 million members across 14 U.S. states, the province of Quebec and two U.S. territories. ACG and its affiliates provide members with roadside assistance, insurance products, banking and financial services, travel offerings and more. ACG belongs to the national AAA federation with more than 60 million members in the United States and Canada. AAA’s mission is to protect and advance freedom of mobility and improve traffic safety. For more information, get the AAA Mobile app, visit, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Learn more.