Putting Driver Assistance Technologies to the Test

Understanding the Limits When Using Blind Spot and Lane Departure Systems

As technology advances, so do auto maker's efforts to increase safety features in new vehicles. Driver assistance technologies, such as blind spot monitoring and lane warning departure systems, are becoming commonplace in new cars. While these systems have great potential to keep drivers safer while on the road, it is important that motorists are aware that even these advanced safety features have limitations.

As part of AAA’s auto technology series, blind spot monitoring and lane warning departure systems were evaluated for effectiveness. While both systems performed well in various situations, our evaluation uncovered scenarios where they failed to perform as expected.

AAA’s research, conducted with the Automobile Club of Southern California’s Automotive Research Center, found that:

  • Blind spot monitoring systems had difficulty detecting fast-moving vehicles, such as those merging onto a busy highway. Alerts were often provided too late for evasive action.

  • Motorcycles were detected by blind spot monitoring systems 26% later than passenger vehicles.

  • Road conditions were often a problem for lane departure warning systems. Worn pavement markers, construction zones and intersections can cause the lane departure warning system to lose track of lane location.

  • The litany of alerts and warnings have the potential to become confusing. Auditory, visual or haptic responses can be similar to other advanced driver assistance features that delivered the same warnings.

Test-track and on-road evaluations also highlighted system performance differences between test vehicles. “Some blind spot monitoring systems we tested had a short detection range, which meant that a vehicle was already in the blind spot before the alert came on,” says Megan McKernan, Manager of Automotive Engineering at the Automobile Club of Southern California. “The lane departure warning system on several vehicles experienced false positives and missed detections, which resulted in an inconsistent driver warning. This can be annoying and could result in the driver disabling the system due to the false alerts.”

According to John Nielson, AAA’s Managing Director of Automotive Engineering, “nearly three-quarters of 2014 vehicles now offer blind spot detection, and 50% offer the option for lane departure warning systems.” While these systems can be of great asset to drivers, it is important to keep in mind that there is a learning curve. Understanding how they operate, and becoming aware of their limitations is a necessary step to take before engaging driver assistance technologies while one the road.

Read the full reports on Lane Departure Warning and Blind Spot Monitoring Systems.