Cars’ adaptive cruise control raises crash risks, U.S. study finds

Travellers take to the roads ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday in Chicago
FILE PHOTO: Travellers take to the roads ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Chicago, Illinois, U.S. November 24, 2020. REUTERS/Kamil Krzaczynski

March 12, 2021

(Reuters) – Adaptive cruise control systems on cars, which control braking and speed, raise the risk of traffic crashes because the technology leads drivers to go faster, a U.S. study found on Thursday.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that drivers using adaptive cruise control (ACC) were more likely to set a target speed that was over the limit because of the perception that the system enhanced their safety.

The research concluded that drivers using the technology were at a 10% higher risk of a fatal crash compared to manual drivers due to the faster cruising speeds selected.

“ACC does have some safety benefits, but it’s important to consider how drivers might cancel out these benefits by misusing the system,” IIHS statistician Sam Monfort, the lead author of the paper, said in a statement.

The study analyzed 40 Boston-area drivers who over a four-week period drove a 2016 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque or a 2017 Volvo S90. The crash-risk finding was reached by statistical analysis rather than real-world crashes.

The study authors said more research was required to determine if the risk from speeding could be offset by the systems’ faster reaction time and ability to take defensive action by braking.

The semi-automated technology is part of a suite of advanced driver assistance systems available in new cars and able to handle some routine driving tasks under limited circumstances.

While many features, such as automated braking and blind spot detection, have proven safety benefits, others, including pedestrian detection, are still in their infancy.

A 2020 study by the Highway Loss Data Institute, an IIHS-affiliated insurance research group, found that some adaptive cruise control systems can lower crashes.

(Reporting by Tina Bellon; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)