Posts Tagged ‘Automotive Research Center’

Erin SteppTests show headlights lights may fail to safely illuminate dark roadways

ORLANDO, Fla., (May 13, 2015) – New test results from AAA reveal the potential for significant headlight shortcomings when traveling on roadways that lack overhead lighting, typically America’s rural roads, which account for 40 percent of vehicle miles traveled annually. To assess headlight capabilities and limitations and learn what, if any, advantage advanced headlight technologies offer, AAA compared the performance of halogen, high intensity discharge (HID) and light emitting diode (LED) headlights. AAA’s test results suggest that halogen headlights, found in over 80 percent of vehicles on the road today, may fail to safely illuminate unlit roadways at speeds as low as 40 mph.

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The testing, conducted with the Automobile Club of Southern California’s Automotive Research Center, measured the distances at which modern headlights illuminate non-reflective objects on both low-beam and high-beam settings. These findings, paired with guidelines issued by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, indicate that when traveling on unlit roadways, today’s headlights fail to light the full distance necessary for a driver to detect an object or obstacle in the roadway, react and come to a complete stop.

“AAA’s test results reveal that headlights found in U.S. vehicles fall short on safety,” said Megan McKernan, manager of the Automobile Club of Southern California’s Automotive Research Center. “By failing to properly light roadways at moderate speeds, a pedestrian or animal may not become visible to a driver until it’s too late to stop.”

While high-beam settings on halogen headlights improved sight distances by 28 percent at the testing facility, in real-world conditions they may only provide enough light to safely stop at speeds of up to 48 mph, leaving drivers vulnerable at highway speeds. Despite the clear need for the additional visibility that high-beams offer, particularly on unlit roads, a recent AAA survey found that only a third of Americans admit to using these settings regularly.

Additional testing found that while the advanced headlight technology found in HID and LED headlights illuminated dark roadways 25 percent further than their halogen counter parts, they still may fail to fully illuminate roadways at speeds greater than 45 mph. High-beam settings on these advanced headlights offered significant improvement over low-beam settings, lighting distances of up to 500 feet (equal to 55 mph). Despite the increase, even the most advanced headlights fall 60 percent short of the sight distances that the full light of day provides.

“While it’s encouraging to see the safety benefit that newer headlight technology offers to drivers, there’s still room for improvement,” said John Nielsen, AAA’s managing director, Automotive Engineering and Repair. “Unlike the more advanced headlight technology available in European vehicles, current government regulations limit the light output for vehicles sold in the United States. AAA looks forward to working with U.S. policy makers to ensure federal regulations keep up with changing technology.”

In addition to testing low-beam and high-beam headlight performance, AAA tested the effect that deteriorated headlight lenses have on light intensity and glare. The protective coating used on the plastics of modern lenses can slowly deteriorate and cloud after about five years, reducing light output and increasing light scatter which results in glare for other drivers.  The testing found that restoring headlights doubles the maximum light intensity and reduces glare-producing light scatter by up to 60 percent.  Yet, according to a recent AAA survey, only 20 percent of Americans have performed this service.

“Deteriorated or dirty headlight lenses are not just an aesthetic issue,” warned Nielsen. “An annual service on older vehicles will increase your nighttime visibility and minimize distracting glare for fellow drivers.”

To learn more about AAA’s vehicle testing series, designed to educate and inform AAA members, the automotive industry and the general public, visit NewsRoom.AAA.com.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 55 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.

Erin SteppAAA Advises Drivers to Know the Limits When Using Blind Spot and Lane Departure Systems

ORLANDO, Fla., (December 9, 2014) – AAA’s Automotive Engineering experts are confident new advanced driver assistance technologies like blind-spot monitoring and lane-departure warning systems have great potential to keep drivers safer, as long as motorists are aware of system limitations.  As part of AAA’s auto technology series, these two systems were recently evaluated. While the systems performed effectively in multiple situations, this evaluation uncovered scenarios where the systems failed to perform as expected. This included delayed warnings by the blind-spot monitoring technologies and lane-departure warning systems failing to track the lane under certain road conditions.

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 when merging onto a busy highway. Alerts were often provided too late for evasive action.
  • Motorcycles were detected by blind-spot monitoring systems 26 percent 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 could be confusing.  Auditory, visual or haptic responses – or a combination – could be similar to other advanced driver assistance features that delivered the same warnings.

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“With nearly three-quarters of 2014 vehicles offering blind-spot detection and 50 percent offering lane-departure warning as options, it’s key that consumers are educated on how to get the best benefit from these systems,” says John Nielsen, AAA’s managing director of Automotive Engineering. “AAA’s tests found that these systems are a great asset to drivers, but there is a learning curve.”

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-positive and miss-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.”

Pros and cons aside, motorists will encounter advanced driver assistance technology as automakers cascade these devices across vehicle lines. Being aware of these systems and understanding how they operate is a necessary step before driving the vehicle.

“As travelers head out for holiday visits, they may be renting a vehicle equipped with blind-spot monitoring or lane-departure warning systems,” says Nielsen. “It’s important to take the time to review these systems so that you’re prepared for alerts and warnings and understand the limits of the technology.”

In addition to AAA’s Automotive Engineering evaluation of these systems, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has also provided an assessment of lane-departure warning systems, along with six other advanced technologies, in the August 2014 report Evaluating Technologies Relevant to the Enhancement of Driver Safety. Conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology AgeLab, this study rates not only the potential for lane-departure systems to reduce crash fatalities but also rates how this advanced driver technology has actually performed based on the limited data currently available.  Motorists can review the AAA Foundation’s rating for new in-vehicle technologies, along with extensive informational material, at https://www.aaafoundation.org/ratings-vehicle-safety-technology.

Additional information regarding AAA’s research on blind-spot monitoring and lane-departure warning systems is available on the AAA Newsroom.

AAA conducts proprietary research to better understand and communicate to members the implications of automotive technology, design and functionality.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 54 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.

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