Most Vehicle Automation Isn’t Making Drivers Safer, Report Says

Only 1 of 14 tested partial automation systems earned an acceptable rating under new scoring methodology.

Evelyn Pimplaskar
Evelyn PimplaskarEditor-in-Chief, Director of Content
  • 10+ years in insurance and personal finance content

  • 30+ years in media, PR, and content creation

Evelyn leads Insurify’s content team. She’s passionate about creating empowering content to help people transform their financial lives and make sound insurance-buying decisions.

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John Leach
Edited byJohn Leach
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John LeachSenior Insurance Copy Editor
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  • 8+ years editing experience

John leads Insurify’s copy desk, helping ensure the accuracy and readability of Insurify’s content. He’s a licensed agent specializing in home and car insurance topics.

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Published May 29, 2024 at 5:00 AM PDT | Reading time: 2 minutes

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Drivers may think that partial automation systems like lane-centering and adaptive cruise control make their vehicles safer. But a new report from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) says automakers need to improve safeguards that ensure a driver doesn’t rely on these systems too much.

“Some drivers may feel that partial automation makes long drives easier, but there is little evidence it makes driving safer,” IIHS President David Harkey said in a news release. “As many high-profile crashes have illustrated, it can introduce new risks when systems lack the appropriate safeguards.”

Winners and losers in automation testing

IIHS analysts tested partial automation systems in 14 vehicles to assess whether the systems included proper safeguards to ensure driver attention. Systems could earn a rating of good, acceptable, marginal, or poor.

“We evaluated partial automation systems from BMW, Ford, General Motors, Genesis, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Tesla, and Volvo,” Harkey said. “Most of them don’t include adequate measures to prevent misuse and keep drivers from losing focus on what’s happening on the road.”

Only the Teammate system, tested on a Lexus LS, earned an overall acceptable rating. The system scored “good” for attention reminders, lane-change alerts, cooperative steering, and safety features, “marginal” for driver monitoring, and “acceptable” for emergency procedures and adaptive cruise control (ACC) resume.

General Motors Super Cruise, tested on a GMC Sierra, and Nissan ProPILOT Assist with Navilink, tested on a Nissan Ariya, both received scores of marginal. All other tested systems scored poorly, with Tesla’s Autopilot Version 2023.7.10 and Full Self-Driving (Beta) Version 2023.7.10, both tested on Model 3s, scoring poorly for five out of seven rating factors.

New safeguard ratings

IIHS conducted the tests to introduce its new partial automation ratings program. The ratings consider:

  • Driver monitoring: The system should monitor a motorist’s gaze and hand position.

  • Attention reminders: Multiple types of rapidly escalating alerts should be in place to get a driver’s attention.

  • Emergency procedures: In an emergency, the system should quickly slow down or stop the vehicle, notify the vehicle manufacturer or other emergency service, and shut down the automation for the remainder of the drive.

  • Automated lane change: Vehicles shouldn’t be able to initiate or make a lane change without confirmation from a driver.

  • Adaptive cruise control: ACC auto-resume should time out if a vehicle has been motionless for two minutes or longer, and the driver should have to take action to re-engage the ACC.

  • Cooperative steering: Lane centering should remain active whenever a driver steers.

  • Safety features: Automation systems should turn off if a driver is unbelted or the autonomous emergency braking (AEB) is turned off.

To earn ratings of acceptable or good, a partial automation system should monitor whether a driver is looking at the road and whether they’re ready to take control back from the system.

“Many [partial automation systems] lack attention reminders that come soon enough and are forceful enough to rouse a driver whose mind is wandering,” said IIHS Senior Research Scientist Alexandra Mueller, who led the development of the new ratings program. “Many can be used despite occupants being unbelted or when other vital safety features are switched off.”

What’s next: Improvement already underway

Some vehicle manufacturers are already taking steps to improve automation system safeguards, the IIHS said. And, Harker said, the performance of the test group as a whole is reason for optimism.

“No single system did well across the board, but in each category at least one system performed well,” he said. “That means the fixes are readily available and, in some cases, may be accomplished with nothing more than a simple software update.”


Evelyn Pimplaskar
Evelyn PimplaskarEditor-in-Chief, Director of Content

Evelyn Pimplaskar is Insurify’s director of content. With 30-plus years in content creation – including 10 years specializing in personal finance – Evelyn’s done everything from covering volatile local elections as a beat reporter to building fintech content libraries from the ground up.

Before joining Insurify, she was editor-in-chief at Credible, where she launched and developed the lending marketplace’s media partnership’s content initiative and managed the restructuring of the editorial team to enhance content production efficiency. Formerly, as tax editor for Credit Karma, Evelyn built a library of more than 300 educational articles on federal and state taxes, achieving triple-digit year-over-year growth in e-files from organic search.

Her early career included work as a content marketer, vice president and managing officer of a boutique public relations agency, chief copy editor for 14 weekly Forbes publications, reporting for large and mid-sized daily newspapers, and freelancing for the Associated Press.

Evelyn is passionate about creating personal finance content that distills complex topics into relatable, easy-to-understand stories. She believes great content helps empower readers with the information they need to make important personal finance decisions.

John Leach
Edited byJohn LeachSenior Insurance Copy Editor
Photo of an Insurify author
John LeachSenior Insurance Copy Editor
  • Licensed property and casualty insurance agent

  • 8+ years editing experience

John leads Insurify’s copy desk, helping ensure the accuracy and readability of Insurify’s content. He’s a licensed agent specializing in home and car insurance topics.

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