Autonomous cars fail emergency brake test

October 19, 2016

Tests of seven cars fitted with the latest autonomous braking technology have revealed only one managed to avoid an accident during a simulated emergency.

The tests were carried out on vehicles fitted with radar-guided cruise control, which activates the vehicle’s brakes automatically when it detects slowing or stationary traffic ahead.

During the assessment, cars were set to follow the vehicle in front at 40km/h, which then swerved to avoid a stationary vehicle. In the vast majority of cases, the test cars failed to recognise what was happening and crashed into the obstacle without braking.

Only the Mercedes-Benz E Class stopped before a crash occurred, while the Tesla stopped twice in four attempts.

The tests highlight the importance of educating consumers about the limitations of current driver assistance systems.

German authorities have already asked Tesla to change the name of its Autopilot system because it is misleading, as the driver still needs to pay full attention to the road when it is activated and be prepared to take over steering at any time. German authorities have also written to owners about the issue.

Although Tesla drivers have covered millions of accident-free kilometres with Autopilot engaged, official concern has been raised by recent fatalities where drivers may have ignored the road while the car was in charge.

Testers from Auto Plus said drivers may not understand the limitations of the autonomous braking systems currently available on cars and warned that they needed to remain alert at all times.

Matthew Avery, head of research at Thatcham, the independent automotive test centre, told a motor insurance conference in the UK yesterday of the potential dangers if drivers do not understand what their semi-automated car can do.

He added that concerns were likely to slow any introduction of autonomous vehicles that are not fitted with a steering wheel.

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