Automated Driver Assistance Systems: Alarms Abound

August 8, 2018

By Kristin Kolodge

Vehicle quality is the best it’s ever been. Ever.

Owners made it very clear in the J.D. Power 2018 Initial Quality StudySM (IQS), and this was the fifth year in a row that we have seen the industry improve. All is good, right?

For many owners, the answer is, “Uh, no.” There is a cacophony of noise from one of the many driver assistance systems on their new vehicle demanding attention, and they don’t like it.

These driver assistance systems (e.g., cruise control (primarily adaptive cruise); lane departure warning; collision avoidance/alert systems; and blind spot warning) are becoming more commonplace in every model on every showroom floor. With each new technology comes the possibility for problems—as well as the opportunity to delight—and these driver assistance systems are no exception.

J.D. Power sees consumer problems increase noticeably with these technologies. Is this a hurdle that automakers must overcome? Absolutely! Especially when those same technologies form the basis for even more advanced systems coming rapidly down the road, including automated vehicles.

Driver assistance problems increased 57% in 2017, as measured by IQS. And this year, the number of problems continues to rise another 17%.  

Total PP100: Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS)

ADAS

Some of the increase in problems is caused simply by more people experiencing the features. This is reflected in the similar but lagging pattern witnessed above between Premium and Non-Premium vehicles. With increasing penetration comes an inherent potential for more quality issues.

Some areas of particular concern include:

  • Blind spot monitoring penetration is increasing 9-10 percentage points per year, with problem levels increasing by 66% year over year.
  • Collision avoidance/alert system penetration is increasing 12-14 percentage points per year, with problems increasing by 50% year over year.
  • Lane departure warning system penetration has increased 14 percentage points per year, with problems increasing by 50% year over year.

If those increasing rates of year over year problems cause a doubletake, they should. This is an alarming pattern that needs to be addressed. If consumers are concerned or even confused by these apparently simple interactions, it will be nearly impossible to get them to adopt fully automated vehicles. 

Much of the problem increase is due to unfamiliarity with the technology—a usability issue. For many consumers, this is their first exposure to driver assistance systems. Couple this with a world in which nearly half of new-vehicle owners walk out of the dealership without any coaching on how to use the systems. That’s not a recipe for success.

These driver assistance systems may seem simple to use and understand but are unlike any other technology in our lives. They have extremely complex parameters defining the operating conditions, and these are not standard across the industry. Furthermore, it is critical that an owner understands what his/her role is as a driver using these systems as well as what the vehicle can (and cannot) do. Over time, this will build the appropriate amount of trust in the system and reduce the risk of over-trust.

J.D. Power has frequently stated the importance of a positive first experience with these lower-level automated systems. This experience will determine the trajectory towards accepting higher levels of automation—including full self-driving vehicles. Will this be accelerated, or will people slam on the metaphorical brakes?

It’s in the best interest of every automaker to teach consumers how to use these driver assistance systems and build the appropriate level of reliance on them to improve overall vehicle safety. Doing so will inspire the next evolution, or what the industry will call the next level of automation.

This year over year problem increase is one alarm for which no one wants to hit the snooze button.

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Kristin Kolodge is executive director for driver interaction and HMI at J.D. Power. For more than 20 years, she has been at the center of reducing the number of HMI alarm bells for drivers.

The information contained herein has been obtained by J.D. Power from sources believed to be reliable. However, because of the possibility of human or mechanical error by our sources, J.D. Power does not guarantee the accuracy, adequacy, or completeness of any information and is not responsible for any errors or omissions or for the results obtained from use of such information. 

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