Archive for the ‘Auto’ Category

Study finds safety systems fail at night when the majority of pedestrian vehicle fatalities occur

Additional Resources

ORLANDO, Fla. (Oct. 3, 2019) – New research from AAA reveals that automatic emergency braking systems with pedestrian detection perform inconsistently, and proved to be completely ineffective at night. An alarming result, considering 75% of pedestrian fatalities occur after dark. The systems were also challenged by real-world situations, like a vehicle turning right into the path of an adult. AAA’s testing found that in this simulated scenario, the systems did not react at all, colliding with the adult pedestrian target every time. For the safety of everyone on the road, AAA supports the continued development of pedestrian detection systems, specifically when it comes to improving functionality at night and in circumstances where drivers are most likely to encounter pedestrians.

On average, nearly 6,000 pedestrians lose their lives each year, accounting for 16% of all traffic deaths, a percentage that has steadily grown since 2010.

“Pedestrian fatalities are on the rise, proving how important the safety impact of these systems could be when further developed,” said Greg Brannon, AAA’s director of Automotive Engineering and Industry Relations. “But, our research found that current systems are far from perfect and still require an engaged driver behind the wheel.”

While time of day and location are contributing factors to pedestrian fatalities, vehicle speed also plays a major role. Previous research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that pedestrians are at greater risk for severe injury or death the faster a car is traveling at the time of impact. For example, a pedestrian hit by a vehicle traveling at 20 mph has an 18% risk of severe injury or death. Increase that by just 10 mph to 30 mph and the risk more than doubles to 47%. AAA’s latest study found that speed impacted system performance as well, with results varying between testing performed at 20 mph and 30 mph.

In partnership with the Automobile Club of Southern California’s Automotive Research Center, AAA evaluated the performance of four midsize sedans equipped with automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection to determine the effectiveness of these systems. Testing was conducted on a closed course using simulated pedestrian targets for the following scenarios:

  • An adult crossing in front of a vehicle traveling at 20 mph and 30 mph during the day and at 25 mph at night.
  • A child darting out from between two parked cars in front of a vehicle traveling at 20 mph and 30 mph.
  • A vehicle turning right onto an adjacent road with an adult crossing at the same time.
  • Two adults standing along the side of the road with their backs to traffic, with a vehicle approaching at 20 mph and 30 mph.

Overall, the systems performed best in the instance of the adult crossing in front of a vehicle traveling at 20 mph during the day. In this case, the systems avoided a collision 40% of the time. But, at the higher speed of 30 mph, most systems failed to avoid a collision with the simulated pedestrian target. The other scenarios proved to be more challenging for the systems:

  • When encountering a child darting from between two cars, with the vehicle traveling at 20 mph, a collision occurred 89% of the time.
  • Immediately following a right hand turn, all of the test vehicles collided with the adult pedestrian.
  • When approaching two adults standing alongside the road, with the vehicle traveling at 20 mph, a collision occurred 80% of the time.
  • In general, the systems were ineffective in all scenarios where the vehicle was traveling at 30 mph.
  • At night, none of the systems detected or reacted to the adult pedestrian.

“The rise in pedestrian deaths is a major concern and automakers are on the right path with the intent of these systems,” continued Brannon. “Our goal with this testing is to identify where the gaps exist to help educate consumers and share these findings with manufacturers to work to improve their functionality.”

New vehicle technology can alert drivers and assist in lessening the likelihood or severity of a crash – whether with another vehicle or even more importantly, a pedestrian. But, until these systems are proven to perform consistently – especially pedestrian detection systems – during the day and at night and in a range of situations, AAA recommends drivers always:

  • Be alert of their immediate surroundings. Do not rely on pedestrian detection systems to prevent a crash. This technology should only serve as a backup and not a replacement for an engaged driver.
  • Read the owner’s manual to understand what safety systems the vehicle is equipped with. Before leaving the lot, ask the dealer to explain how these systems work, including what safety system alerts sound and look like and what triggers their activation.
  • Use extra caution when driving at night since this is the riskiest time for pedestrians and where the systems struggled the most. Previous AAA research found that headlights, even in new condition, do not provide the amount of light needed for drivers to appropriately react to something or someone in the roadway.

It is a driver’s responsibility to yield to pedestrians, but those traveling by foot should be diligent as well. Pedestrians should use caution by staying on sidewalks and using crosswalks as often as possible. Always obey traffic signals, look both ways before crossing the street and do not walk and text.

Methodology

To assess the capabilities of pedestrian detection systems, AAA conducted primary research in partnership with the Automotive Club of Southern California’s Automotive Research Center in Los Angeles, California. Track testing was conducted on closed surface streets on the grounds of the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.

Four test vehicles were selected (2019 Chevy Malibu, 2019 Honda Accord, 2019 Tesla Model 3 and 2019 Toyota Camry) using specific criteria and each test vehicle was outfitted using industry-standard instrumentation, sensors and cameras to capture vehicle dynamics, position data and visual notifications from the pedestrian detection system. Three simulated pedestrian targets were used including two dynamic models and each were outfitted with industry-standard instrumentation to time movement as well as receive position, speed and acceleration from the dynamic target. Complete methodology can be found in the full research report here.

About AAA

AAA provides more than 59 million members with automotive, travel, insurance and financial services through its federation of 34 motor clubs and nearly 1,100 branch offices across North America. Since 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for safe mobility. Drivers can request roadside assistance, identify nearby gas prices, locate discounts, book a hotel or map a route via the AAA Mobile app. To join, visit AAA.com.

Need AAA Roadside Help? Just talk to Google or Alexa

September 24th, 2019 by AAA Public Affairs

New Feature Uses Digital Assistants to Place Service Requests

ORLANDO, Fla. (September 24, 2019) – AAA members needing emergency service can now get help just by talking to their digital assistant. A new AAA-developed feature for Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa allows members to forgo the call and make requests for some roadside service needs, such as fuel refills, battery replacements, or flat tire repairs directly through their digital assistants.

“Roadside service is the leading reason members join AAA. With 1 in 3 calls originating from home, this new feature for Amazon Alexa and Google Home provides an innovative, convenient way for members to request service,” said AAA Chief Technology Officer Ramon Millan. “These sorts of services are something people have come to expect.”

There are about 118 million digital assistants in use in U.S. homes, and that number is growing every day.

Before using the feature – also called a “skill” – users must enable Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa on their smart device. To request help, members instruct Amazon Alexa to “Open AAA Road Service,” or tell Google Assistant to “Talk to AAA Road Service.” The skill works with home digital assistants, smartphones or tablets.

The first time a member uses the skill, they will be asked to provide information to confirm their AAA membership. Once that’s been done, the skill will talk them through the service-request process. In 2017, AAA unveiled a similar voice-activated service that allows members to find AAA-approved restaurants.

“This new feature has the potential to change the way many members interact with AAA – especially members who are digital natives,” said Millan.

For now, the skill allows members to make certain types of roadside service requests only. Those include battery boost/replacement, fuel delivery, vehicle lockout service and flat tire service. AAA is exploring opportunities to expand the system to accommodate full-service requests such as towing.

About AAA:

AAA provides more than 59 million members with automotive, travel, insurance and financial services through its federation of 34 motor clubs and nearly 1,100 branch offices across North America. Since 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for safe mobility. Drivers can request roadside assistance, identify nearby gas prices, locate discounts, book a hotel or map a route via the AAA Mobile app. To join, visit AAA.com.

AAA: True Cost of Annual Vehicle Ownership Rises to $9,282

September 12th, 2019 by AAA Public Affairs

Spike in Finance Costs Drives Increase

ORLANDO, Fla. (September 12, 2019) – It’s going to cost more for those looking to buy a new car this year. Finance costs on new car purchases have jumped 24% in 2019, according to new AAA research, pushing the average annual cost of vehicle ownership to $9,282, or $773.50 a month. That’s the highest cost associated with new vehicle ownership since AAA began tracking expenses in 1950 and a reminder that the true costs of owning a vehicle extend far beyond maintenance and fuel.

“Finance costs accounted for more than 40% of the total increase in average vehicle ownership costs,” said John Nielsen, AAA’s managing director for Automotive Engineering & Repair. “AAA found finance charges rose more sharply in the last 12 months than any major expense associated with owning a vehicle.”

Additional Resources

The spike in finance charges – which rose from $744 to $920, a nearly $200 increase — was fueled by rising federal interest rates and higher vehicle prices. It comes as 72-month car loans have become increasingly common – meaning car buyers are paying more, and longer, for vehicles that lose value the moment they’re sold. Long-term loans offer lower monthly car payments, but they ultimately cost the consumer more. AAA found that, on average, every 12 months added to the life of a loan adds nearly $1,000 in total finance charges.

“Smaller monthly payments may be tempting to potential buyers, but they can add big costs in the long run,” Nielsen said.

The new figures come from Your Driving Costs, which reviews nine categories of vehicles – consisting of 45 models – to determine the average annual operating and ownership costs of each. AAA focuses on top-selling, mid-priced models and compares them across six expense categories: fuel prices; maintenance/repair/tire costs; insurance rates; license/registration/taxes; depreciation; and finance charges. Annual average costs increased in each category.

Of all costs, depreciation, a measure of how quickly a car loses value, remains the single biggest cost of ownership, accounting for more than a third (36%) of the average annual cost. It slowed a bit this year, with vehicles included in the study losing an average of $3,334 a year, up $45 – or 1.4% – from last year. In 2018, depreciation rose by $117, or 3.7%. In two vehicle classes this year – small and medium sedans – depreciation costs actually declined.

Other key findings of this year’s Your Driving Costs include:

  • Average fuel cost rose to 11.6 cents per mile, 5% higher than last year. The per-mile increase was driven by gasoline prices, which are up 15.6 cents per gallon over the timeframe covered by the study. Electricity prices for EV charging also rose 0.1 cent per kilowatt-hour (0.08%), but the market share of the electric vehicles in the study (0.48%) makes the effect of this increase on the overall average fuel cost negligible. Fuel costs vary widely by vehicle type, ranging from a low of 3.65 cents per mile for electric vehicles, to 15.67 cents per mile for pickup trucks.
  • Average maintenance and repair costs climbed marginally to 8.94 cents per mile, up 8.9% over last year. The increase was fueled by the growing complexity of vehicle systems and an updated methodology for calculating repair costs.
  • Electric vehicles had the lowest maintenance and repair costs – 6.6 cents per mile – while medium-sized SUVs had the highest at 9.6 cents per mile.
  • The cost of licenses, registration fees and taxes rose $14 to $753 per year, an increase of 1.9%
  • Average annual costs by new vehicle category (based on 15,000 miles driven annually):
New Vehicle Category Annual Cost
Small Sedan $7,114
Hybrid $7,736
Electric $8,320
Small SUV $8,394
Medium Sedan $8,643
Medium SUV $10,265
Large Sedan $10,403
Pickup $10,839

The AAA study gives the public a window into the true costs of owning and operating a vehicle by quantifying expenses that owners may overlook. Additional information and details can be found at AAA.com/YourDrivingCosts.

After purchasing a home, buying a vehicle is probably a consumer’s second biggest expense. Research is key, as is acting carefully and methodically. AAA.com/autobuying is a comprehensive resource that can help make the process more manageable. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Know what you can afford to spend before going to the dealership. Determine your budget and stick to it.
  • Minimize total finance costs by getting the shortest loan term you can afford.
  • Seasonally, the best times to buy tend to be the last two weeks of December – when dealers are trying to hit year-end goals – and, to a lesser extent, between July and October. That’s when dealers are trying to clear lots to make way for the next year’s models.
  • The best time to buy is the end of the month because sales managers like to build campaigns around monthly quotas. Shop toward the end of the month and you’ll find a dealer may offer additional price concessions.
  • Consider a late-model, gently used vehicle. New cars lose around 20% of their value the moment they leave the lot, so you can save big if you look for a car that’s a year or two old. Your insurance costs could be less, too.
  • If you belong to AAA or a similar organization, you may qualify for dealer discounts. Dealer networks sometimes agree to limit profits when selling to club members, though the deals will be limited to certain makes and models.

Methodology

AAA’s Your Driving Costs study employs a proprietary AAA methodology to analyze the costs of owning and operating a new vehicle in the United States. The methodology incorporates standardized criteria to estimate the costs of using a new vehicle for personal transportation over five years and 75,000 miles of ownership. Your Driving Costs is designed to help consumers make informed vehicle purchase decisions and budget for annual automotive expenses.

About AAA

AAA provides more than 59 million members with automotive, travel, insurance and financial services through its federation of 34 motor clubs and nearly 1,100 branch offices across North America. Since 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for safe mobility. Drivers can request roadside assistance, identify nearby gas prices, locate discounts, book a hotel or map a route via the AAA Mobile app. To join, visit AAA.com.

New research finds vehicle escape tools effective in breaking tempered side windows, but not laminated

ORLANDO, Fla. (July 16, 2019) – New research from AAA reveals that most vehicle escape tools, intended to quickly aid passengers trapped in a car following an accident, will break tempered side windows, but none were able to penetrate laminated glass. Motorists may not realize it, but an increasing number of new cars – in fact, 1 in 3 2018 vehicle models – have laminated side windows, a nearly unbreakable glass meant to lessen the chance of occupant ejection during a collision. AAA urges drivers to know what type of side window glass is installed on their vehicle, keep a secure and easily accessible escape tool in their car and have a backup plan in case an escape tool cannot be used or doesn’t work.

Additional Resources

In its latest study, AAA examined a selection of vehicle escape tools available to consumers to determine their effectiveness in breaking tempered and laminated vehicle side windows. Of the six tools selected (three spring-loaded and three hammer style), AAA researchers found that only four were able to shatter the tempered glass and none were able to break the laminated glass, which stayed intact even after being cracked. During multiple rounds of testing, it was also discovered that the spring-loaded tools were more effective in breaking tempered windows than the hammer-style.

“To improve safety, more vehicles are being equipped with laminated side windows – but a majority also have at least one window made of tempered glass,” said John Nielsen, managing director of Automotive Engineering and Repair for AAA. “Our research found that generally vehicle escape tools can be effective in an emergency, but only if drivers know what type of side windows they have, otherwise they could waste precious seconds trying to break glass that will not shatter.”

Drivers can determine the type of glass installed on their vehicle by first checking for a label located in the bottom corner of the side window, which should clearly indicate whether the glass is tempered or laminated. If this information is not included or there is no label at all, AAA advises contacting the vehicle manufacturer. It is also important to note that some vehicles are outfitted with different glass at varying locations in the car (i.e. tempered glass on rear side windows versus laminated on front side windows).

The increased use of laminated glass is in response to federal safety standards aimed at reducing occupant ejections in high speed collisions. In 2017, there were an estimated 21,400 people who were partially or fully ejected during a crash, resulting in 11,200 injuries and 5,053 deaths. While these types of crashes are more prevalent, there are instances where vehicles may catch fire or become partially or fully submerged in water, forcing drivers and their passengers to exit the vehicle through a side window. In situations like this, vehicle escape tools can assist ahead of emergency responders arriving.

Vehicle escape tools come in many varieties, but AAA suggests avoiding tools with extra features such as lights or chargers since these functions do not improve the performance of the tool itself. Drivers should also remember that in the event their vehicle is submerged, a hammer-style escape tool (as opposed to a spring-loaded-style) will be ineffective underwater.  

“Drivers should pick a tool they feel comfortable with and find easy to use, but most importantly they should store it somewhere that is secure and within reach following a collision,” added Nielsen.

Being prepared in an emergency can greatly improve the chances of survival, especially if drivers and their passengers have become trapped in the vehicle. AAA strongly recommends drivers do the following:

Prepare ahead of time:

  • Memorize the type of glass the vehicle windows are made of – tempered or laminated. If the car has at least one tempered window, this will be the best point of exit in an emergency. Also, remember – standard escape tools will not break laminated glass.
  • Keep an escape tool in the car that the driver is comfortable using, has previously tested and is easy to access following a collision. To make sure a vehicle escape tool is working properly, test it ahead of time on a softer surface such as a piece of soft wood. The tool works if the tip impacts the surface, leaving a small indent in the material.
  • Plan an exit strategy in advance and communicate it to everyone in the car. This will help avoid confusion in an emergency, which could increase the time it takes to exit the vehicle. Also, have a backup plan in case an escape tool cannot be used or doesn’t work.

If trapped in a vehicle, remember there is a S-U-R-E way out:

  • Stay calm. While time is of the essence – work cautiously to ensure everyone safely exits the vehicle.
  • Unbuckle seat belts and check to see that everyone is ready to leave the car when it’s time.
  • Roll down or break a window – remember if the car is sinking in water, once the window is open the water will rush into the car at a faster rate. If the window will not open and the car has tempered glass, use an escape tool to break a side window to escape. Drivers should also remember that:
    • Drivers and/or occupants should make every effort to roll down a window as soon as the vehicle enters the water. However, if a window will not open or cannot be broken because it is laminated, call 911 immediately.
    • If the vehicle is submerged, a hammer-style escape tool (as opposed to a spring-loaded-style) could be much harder to swing underwater.
  • Exit the vehicle quickly and move everyone to safety.
  • Call 911 – while this is typically the first step in an emergency, if a vehicle has hit the water or is on fire, it is best to try to escape first.

Methodology

For testing methodology, refer to the full report by clicking here.

About AAA

AAA provides more than 59 million members with automotive, travel, insurance and financial services through its federation of 34 motor clubs and nearly 1,100 branch offices across North America. Since 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for safe mobility. Drivers can request roadside assistance, identify nearby gas prices, locate discounts, book a hotel or map a route via the AAA Mobile app. To join, visit AAA.com.

Why Aren’t Americans Plugging in to Electric Vehicles?

May 9th, 2019 by AAA Public Affairs

AAA finds interest in going green remains steady but consumers still slow to adopt

ORLANDO, Fla. (May. 9, 2019) – AAA’s latest survey reveals that despite many Americans having interest in electric vehicles, when asked if most vehicles will be electric by 2029, only 4 in 10 said yes. Yet, a separate study AAA conducted earlier this year found that more than half of Americans believe that in this same timeframe most cars will have the ability to drive themselves – a reality that is much less likely to happen. AAA believes that similar to other emerging technologies, a lack of knowledge and experience may be contributing to the slow adoption of electric vehicles despite Americans’ desire to go green.

Additional Resources

“Today, more than 200,000 electric cars can be found on roads across the country as almost every manufacturer sells them,” said Greg Brannon, AAA’s director of Automotive Engineering and Industry Relations. “But, like other new vehicle technologies, Americans don’t have the full story and that could be causing the gap between interest and action.”

AAA’s annual survey that tracks opinions regarding electric and hybrid vehicles found that while consumer interest remains steady, Americans may not have a solid understanding of electric vehicle performance, which may be giving consumers pause when it comes to considering electric for their next purchase. For instance, electric vehicles, unlike those running on gas, do better in stop and go traffic because the car can recapture energy to charge the battery when decelerating. However, AAA’s survey found that a majority of Americans (59 percent) were unsure of whether electric vehicles have better range when driving at highways speeds or in stop and go traffic. This demonstrates that many consumers are not sure what to expect from an electric vehicle in two of the most common driving scenarios.

Although most Americans don’t believe electric vehicles will be on the road in masses in the next 10 years, AAA did find that 40 million Americans say they would be likely to consider an electric vehicle for their next car purchase, with Millennials leading the pack. Concern for the environment and lower long-term costs remain the leading reasons to go green (74 percent and 56 percent respectively). Previous objections to buying electric with regards to price and range anxiety continue to ease and have trended downward significantly:

  • Concern that there are not enough places to charge – down 11 percentage points from 2017
  • Concern about running out of charge when driving – down 11 percentage points from 2017
  • Higher cost of battery repair or replacement – down 8 percentage points from 2017
  • Higher purchase price – down 6 percentage points from 2017

“These vehicles are a big part of the future of transportation since self-driving cars, when they do arrive, will likely be electric,” continued Brannon. “The difference, of course, is that electric vehicles are already here and with the advancements in style and range that have been made over the last few years, they have become an even more viable option for many Americans.”  

Consumers interested in electric vehicles, but still unsure should research and learn as much as possible about these types of cars. AAA also recommends drivers visit a dealership, test drive an electric vehicle and ask as many questions as possible of the dealer and other electric vehicle owners. It is also important to understand charging options available at home to ensure consumers can take full advantage of electric vehicle technology with the least inconvenience.

Each year AAA (Automobile Club of Southern California Automotive Research Center) produces its Green Car Guide, which rates electric vehicles as well as hybrids and highly fuel efficient cars based on criteria such as ride quality, safety and performance. This comprehensive guide can serve as a resource to consumers since it not only provides detailed reviews of each car tested, but also offers robust information on green vehicles. Consumers who are on the fence will find that this guide can be a valuable resource for learning more about electric and other environmentally friendly vehicles.

“Consumers may not realize it, but they have many options when it comes to shopping for an electric vehicle,” said Megan McKernan, manager of Automotive Research Center. “The Green Car Guide can help first-time and even return buyers navigate the marketplace and dispel any misconceptions they may have about these types of vehicles.”

In 2019, the following vehicles earned AAA’s Top Green Car award:

Category Vehicle
Overall 2019 Jaguar I-Pace EV400 HSE
Subcompact Car 2019 Chevy Bolt Premier
Compact Car 2018 Nissan Leaf SL
Midsize Car 2018 Tesla Model 3 RWD
Large Car 2018 Tesla Model S P100D
Pickup 2018 Ford F-150 4×4 Supercrew
SUV/Minivan 2019 Jaguar I-Pace EV400 HSE
Best Under $30K 2019 Toyota Camry SE
Best $30K – $50K 2018 Nissan Leaf SL
Best Over $50K 2019 Jaguar I-Pace EV400 HSE

Winners, detailed evaluation criteria, vehicle reviews and an in-depth analysis of the green vehicle industry can be found at AAA.com/greencar.

Methodology

A telephone omnibus survey was conducted April 4-7, 2019. A total of 1,000 interviews were completed among adults, 18 years of age or older.

A dual-frame approach was used that combined land-line and cell phone interviews to ensure that adults who only or primarily communicate via cell phones are included and properly represented. Survey responses are weighted by six variables (age, gender, geographic region, race/ethnicity, education, and landline vs. cell phone only) to ensure reliable and accurate representation of the total continental US population, 18 years of age and older.

The margin of error for the study is 3.8% at the 95% confidence level. Smaller subgroups will have larger error margins.

About AAA

AAA provides more than 59 million members with automotive, travel, insurance and financial services through its federation of 34 motor clubs and nearly 1,100 branch offices across North America. Since 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for safe mobility. Drivers can request roadside assistance, identify nearby gas prices, locate discounts, book a hotel or map a route via the AAA Mobile app. To join, visit AAA.com.

AAA’s research shows the importance of allowing Adaptive Driving Beam Headlights on U.S. roads

ORLANDO, Fla. (Apr. 16, 2019) – Driving at night carries the highest fatality rate for both drivers and pedestrians but could be made safer by headlight technology already on the roads in Europe and Canada. New research from AAA found that European vehicles equipped with adaptive driving beam headlights (ADB) increase roadway lighting by as much as 86 percent when compared to U.S. low beam headlights. AAA believes this technology, not presently allowed by U.S. standards, is the first real solution to providing more light for drivers at night and AAA supports changes in the law to allow ADB to be used to its full capability.

Additional Resources

“Driving at night doesn’t have to be such a risky undertaking for Americans,” said John Nielsen, managing director of Automotive Engineering and Repair, AAA. “The technology not only exists but is being used in other parts of the world to effectively provide the amount of light needed to keep drivers and pedestrians safer.” 

Previous AAA research found that a majority of Americans (64 percent) do not regularly use their high beams. This means when driving at moderate speeds like 40 mph with low beams on, motorists will not have enough time to appropriately react to something or someone in the roadway. High beams, however, improve forward illumination by 28 percent in comparison and are much more effective at providing the proper amount of light when traveling at higher speeds. With ADB, the high beams are always on and when another vehicle is detected, that area is shaded to prevent glare that would otherwise interfere with the other driver’s field of vision.

Some newer U.S. vehicles are equipped with a similar technology that automatically switches between high and low beam, which does help to address this issue and increase visibility, but only when other vehicles aren’t present. However, once an oncoming or preceding vehicle is detected, the car will switch from high to low beams, thus losing the benefit of the additional light.

Another shortcoming in the U.S. standards is how headlights are assessed for regulatory compliance. Currently, just the headlamp assembly is evaluated as a stand-alone part. This is done by static testing in a lab, which does not capture critical aspects of on-road illuminance and performance, especially when evaluating a dynamic technology like ADB. The performance of these systems is dependent on the presence and location of other vehicles, as well as the camera/sensor, software and mechanism used to control the beam pattern.

“Real-world driving does not take place in a lab,” continued Nielsen. “Roads vary in so many ways – some have hills, others sharp turns – by not conducting track testing, a lot of valuable insight is missed into how headlight technology could be enhanced.”

Following a petition from Toyota, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) proposed an amendment last fall to allow manufacturers the option of equipping vehicles with ADB systems. AAA submitted comments to NHTSA regarding the proposed changes along with supporting primary research in an effort to provide insight into the performance of ADB as it exists today.

“AAA supports adaptive driving beam headlights and NHTSA’s work in this area to consider changing the current standards,” said Jill Ingrassia, managing director of Government Relations &Traffic Safety Advocacy. “Allowing ADB will not only improve roadway visibility but the safety of every driver and pedestrian who must travel at night.”

A new headlight standard and testing protocol could still be a few years away, which means drivers should take other precautions when driving at night. AAA recommends:

  • When driving after dark on unlit roadways, use high beams whenever possible. There is a difference between seeing the roadway markings, signs, and other vehicles, versus being able to perceive a non‐reflective object in your path.
  • Monitor and adjust driving speeds when traveling on unlit roads at night to allow enough time to detect, react and stop the vehicle in order to avoid striking a pedestrian, animal or object in the roadway.
  • If your car’s headlamp lenses are anything but crystal clear, have them restored or replaced to improve light output.

AAA engages in research, surveys and a significant amount of automotive testing on new and emerging vehicle technologies to help educate the driving public and keep the roadways safe. Previous research in this area includes the use of high beam versus low beam (U.S. only) and the impact of deteriorated headlights on nighttime visibility.

About AAA

AAA provides more than 59 million members with automotive, travel, insurance and financial services through its federation of 34 motor clubs and nearly 1,100 branch offices across North America. Since 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for safe mobility. Drivers can request roadside assistance, identify nearby gas prices, locate discounts, book a hotel or map a route via the AAA Mobile app. To join, visit AAA.com.

AAA believes testing, experience and education will aid consumer acceptance

ORLANDO, Fla. (Mar. 14, 2019) – A year after a number of high-profile automated vehicle incidents, American attitudes toward fully self-driving cars have not rebounded. AAA’s annual automated vehicle survey found that 71 percent of people are afraid to ride in fully self-driving vehicles – indicating that overall sentiment has not yet returned to what it was prior to these incidents occurring (63 percent). AAA believes the key to helping consumers feel more comfortable with fully self-driving vehicles will be bridging the gap between the perception of automated vehicle technology and the reality of how it actually works in today’s cars.

Additional Resources

“Automated vehicle technology is evolving on a very public stage and, as a result, it is affecting how consumers feel about it,” said Greg Brannon, AAA’s director of Automotive Engineering and Industry Relations. “Having the opportunity to interact with partially or fully automated vehicle technology will help remove some of the mystery for consumers and open the door for greater acceptance.”

Experience seems to play a key role in impacting how drivers feel about automated vehicle technology. Many cars on the road today are equipped with advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), which are considered the building blocks for fully self-driving vehicles. AAA’s recent survey revealed that regular interaction with ADAS components like lane keeping assistance, adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking and self-parking significantly improves consumer comfort level. On average, drivers who have one of these four ADAS technologies are about 68 percent more likely to trust these features than drivers who don’t have them.

Even more promising, AAA found that Americans are receptive to the idea of automated vehicle technology in more limited applications. About half (53 percent) are comfortable with low-speed, short distance forms of transportation like people movers found at airports or theme parks while 44 percent are comfortable with fully self-driving vehicles for delivery of food or packages. However, once the passengers become more personal – in particular, transporting their loved ones – one in five remain comfortable.

“Despite fears still running high, AAA’s study also shows that Americans are willing to take baby steps toward incorporating this type of technology into their lives,” continued Brannon. “Hands-on exposure in more controlled, low-risk environments coupled with stronger education will play a key role in easing fears about self-driving cars.”

Recently, AAA Northern California, Nevada & Utah, in partnership with the city of Las Vegas, Keolis North America and the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada (RTC), piloted the first and largest self-driving shuttle for the public to operate in live traffic, in an effort to give more people the opportunity to gain real-world experience with automated vehicle transportation. The self-driving shuttle was the first in the country to be fully integrated with smart city infrastructure and operate on open, public roads. Participants had the voluntary opportunity to take a survey post-ride regarding the impact of their personal experience with the shuttle on their perception of self-driving vehicles. Of those who responded, many reported their sentiment improved following the experience of riding the shuttle.

Currently, more than half of Americans (55 percent) think that by 2029, most cars will have the ability to drive themselves, however, this timeline may be overly optimistic given the number of vehicles already on the road today. Those who are skeptical that fully self-driving cars will arrive that soon, cite reasons such as lack of trust, not wanting to give up driving, the technology won’t be ready and that road conditions will not be good enough to support the technology.

While experts agree that a fully self-driving fleet is still decades away, it is likely that more highly automated vehicles will be on the roads in the coming years. The more drivers understand both the benefits and limitations of the technology that is currently available, AAA believes the more prepared and receptive they will be for the experience of riding in a fully automated vehicle when the time comes.

To help educate consumers on the effectiveness of emerging vehicle technologies, AAA is committed to conducting ongoing, unbiased testing of automated vehicle technologies as well as researching how related emerging technologies can help reduce or prevent crashes. Previous research includes ADAS technology naming, testing of driver support systems and the annual automated vehicle survey (2016, 2017, January 2018 and April 2018).

Methodology

A telephone omnibus survey was conducted January 10-13, 2019. A total of 1,008 interviews were completed among adults, 18 years of age or older.

A dual-frame approach was used that combined landline and cell phone interviews to ensure that adults who only or primarily communicate via cell phones are included and properly represented. Survey responses are weighted by six variables (age, gender, geographic region, race/ethnicity, education, and landline vs. cell phone only) to ensure reliable and accurate representation of the total continental US population, 18 years of age and older.

The margin of error for the study is 4% at the 95% confidence level. Smaller subgroups will have larger error margins.

About AAA

AAA provides more than 59 million members with automotive, travel, insurance and financial services through its federation of 34 motor clubs and nearly 1,100 branch offices across North America. Since 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for safe mobility. Drivers can request roadside assistance, identify nearby gas prices, locate discounts, book a hotel or map a route via the AAA Mobile app. To join, visit AAA.com.

Icy Temperatures Cut Electric Vehicle Range Nearly in Half

February 7th, 2019 by AAA Public Affairs

AAA research finds HVAC use in frigid temperatures causes substantial drop in electric vehicle range

ORLANDO, Fla. (Feb. 7, 2019) – As freezing temperatures plague much of the country, electric vehicle owners may experience a decrease in driving range, compounded by the use of the vehicle’s interior climate control. New research from AAA reveals that when the mercury dips to 20°F and the HVAC system is used to heat the inside of the vehicle, the average driving range is decreased by 41 percent. This means for every 100 miles of combined urban/highway driving, the range at 20°F would be reduced to 59 miles. When colder temperatures hit, AAA urges electric vehicle owners to be aware of a reduction in range and the need to charge more often to minimize the chance of being stranded by a dead battery.

Additional Resources

“The appeal of electric vehicles continues to grow since a greater variety of designs and options with increased range have come onto the market,” said Greg Brannon, AAA’s director of Automotive Engineering and Industry Relations. “As long as drivers understand that there are limitations when operating electric vehicles in more extreme climates, they are less likely to be caught off guard by an unexpected drop in driving range.”

Cold weather, however, is not the only factor that can influence driving range. AAA’s research also found that when outside temperatures heat up to 95°F and air-conditioning is used inside the vehicle, driving range decreases by 17 percent. Extreme temperatures certainly play a role in diminishing driving range, but the use of HVAC in these conditions – particularly the heat – has by far the greatest effect. Additionally, an electric vehicle with a compromised driving range will require charging more often, which increases the cost to operate the vehicle. For instance, AAA’s study found that the use of heat when it’s 20°F outside adds almost $25 more for every 1,000 miles when compared to the cost of combined urban and highway driving at 75°F.

AAA tested five electric vehicles, all with a minimum EPA estimated driving range of 100 miles, in partnership with the Automotive Club of Southern California’s Automotive Research Center. Real-world driving conditions were simulated using a dynamometer, essentially a treadmill for cars, in a closed testing cell where ambient temperature could be closely controlled. To determine the effects on driving range, scenarios for cold and hot weather conditions – both when using HVAC and not – were compared to those of driving with an outside temperature of 75°F.

“The research clearly shows that electric vehicles thrive in more moderate climates, except the reality is most Americans live in an area where temperature fluctuates,” said Megan McKernan, manager of Automotive Research Center. “Automakers are continually making advances to improve range, but with this information, drivers will be more aware of the impacts varying weather conditions can have on their electric vehicles.”

Previous AAA research has found that interest in electric vehicles continues to gain momentum with 20 percent of drivers saying they would likely go green when considering their next vehicle purchase. With lower-than-average ownership costs, increased driving ranges and the latest advanced safety features, AAA believes there is a strong future for electric vehicles. To help “green” car shoppers make an informed choice, AAA conducts independent, rigorous test-track evaluations of plug-in hybrids, hybrid and fuel-efficient, gas-powered vehicles and releases the results every spring in its annual Green Car Guide.

There are some precautions electric vehicle owners can take during colder and hotter times of year to help offset potential reductions in driving range. AAA recommends drivers:

  • Plan ahead. When drivers are aware of the weather conditions before heading out, they can plan for more frequent stops for charging as well as identify the location of charging stations. Drivers can access these locations through AAA’s Mobile app or TripTik Planner.
  • Make time to “pre-heat” or cool down the inside of the vehicle while still connected to the charger. This will reduce the demand on the vehicle’s battery to regulate cabin temperature at the onset of driving.
  • If possible, park the vehicle in a garage to help stabilize cabin temperature.

While electric vehicle range performs best in areas with warm weather year-round such as Florida, Hawaii and California, drivers in other parts of the country shouldn’t be discouraged. Owning an electric vehicle in these regions just requires some additional planning.

Methodology

AAA conducted primary research in partnership with the Automotive Club of Southern California’s Automotive Research Center (ARC) in Los Angeles, California to understand impacts of ambient temperature on electric vehicle driving range with and without the use of the HVAC system. The vehicles were tested using the ARC’s climate controlled test cell and state of the art chassis dynamometer and data logging equipment.

Test vehicles were selected using a pre-determined set of criteria such as availability for sale throughout the United States with a minimum EPA estimated driving range of 100 miles. One vehicle per manufacturer was tested to prevent overrepresentation of a single brand. Additional information on methodology can be found in the full report here.

About AAA

AAA provides more than 59 million members with automotive, travel, insurance and financial services through its federation of 34 motor clubs and nearly 1,100 branch offices across North America. Since 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for safe mobility. Drivers can request roadside assistance, identify nearby gas prices, locate discounts, book a hotel or map a route via the AAA Mobile app. To join, visit AAA.com.

AAA Recommends Common Naming for ADAS Technology

January 25th, 2019 by AAA Public Affairs


Some Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) have been available for nearly 30 years, however, they have only become more commonplace in the last several years, like automatic emergency braking and lane keeping assistance. Since these features now come standard on many new vehicles, it is becoming increasingly important for consumers to have a solid understanding of their functionality. However, with the current variety of marketing names and lack of consensus by industry regulatory groups, it has been difficult for consumers to discern what features a vehicle has and how they actually work.

Additional Resources

AAA set out to understand the growing prevalence of ADAS technology in new vehicles as well as examine the terminology currently used by regulatory organizations and manufacturers. Previous AAA research found that 40 percent of Americans expect partially automated driving systems with names like Autopilot, ProPILOT or Pilot Assist, to have the ability to drive the car by itself. This research highlights the need for standardization of terms and definitions for ADAS features.

Key Findings

Cost/Prevalence of ADAS Technology
  • AAA examined 2018 model year vehicles to identify the percentage of ADAS technology that comes standard and found the following three features are the most prevalent:

o   Automatic Emergency Braking – 30.6%

o   Lane Keeping Assistance – 13.9%

o   Adaptive Cruise Control – 11.8%

  • Multiple ADAS features are often sold as part of an optional technology bundle. On average, the cost of an ADAS bundle is approximately $1,950.
  • At least one ADAS feature is available in 92.7 percent of new vehicle models available in the United States as of May 2018.
Terminology Review

AAA’s Automotive Engineering team examined 34 vehicle brands sold in the United States to identify the number of unique names manufacturers use to market ADAS. AAA found the following regarding the number of terms used to describe a single ADAS feature:

ADAS Feature
Number of Unique Names
Automatic Emergency Braking 40
Adaptive Cruise Control 20
Surround View Camera 20
Lane Keeping Assistance 19
Blind Spot Warning 19
Automatic High Beams 18
Rear Cross Traffic Warning 15
Driver Monitoring 13
Semi-Automated Parking Assist 12
Forward Collision Warning 8
Night Vision and Pedestrian Detection 5

 

AAA Proposed Terminology for ADAS

AAA is proposing terminology that is intended to be simple, specific and based on system functionality.

AUTOMATED DRIVING TASKS
DEFINITION
Adaptive Cruise Control Controls acceleration and/or braking to maintain a prescribed distance between it and a vehicle in front. May be able to come to a stop and continue.
Dynamic Driving Assistance Controls vehicle acceleration, braking, and steering. SAE standard definition of L2 Autonomous systems outlines this functionality.
Lane Keeping Assistance Controls steering to maintain vehicle within driving lane. May prevent vehicle from departing lane or continually center vehicle.
COLLISION ALERTS
DEFINITION
Blind Spot Warning Detects vehicles to rear in adjacent lanes while driving and alerts driver to their presence.
Forward Collision Warning Detects impending collision while traveling forward and alerts driver.
Lane Departure Warning Monitors vehicle’s position within driving lane and alerts driver as the vehicle approaches or crosses lane markers.
Parking Obstruction Warning Detects obstructions in close proximity to vehicle during parking maneuvers.
Pedestrian Detection Detects pedestrians in front of vehicle and alerts driver to their presence.
Rear Cross Traffic Warning Detects vehicles approaching from side and rear of vehicles while traveling in reverse and alerts driver.
COLLISION MITIGATION
DEFINITION
Automatic Emergency Steering Detects potential collision and automatically controls steering to avoid or lessen the severity of impact.
Forward Automatic Emergency Braking Detects potential collisions while traveling forward and automatically applies brakes to avoid or lessen the severity of impact.
Reverse Automatic Emergency Braking Detects potential collision while traveling in reverse and automatically applies brakes to avoid or lessen the severity of impact.
PARKING ASSISTANCE
DEFINITION
Fully-automated Parking Assistance Controls acceleration, braking, steering, and shifting during parking. May be capable of parallel and / or perpendicular parking.
Remote Parking System parks vehicle without driver being physically present inside the vehicle. Automatically controls acceleration, braking, steering, and shifting.
Semi-automated Parking Assistance Controls steering during parking. Driver responsible for acceleration, braking, and gear position. May be capable of parallel and/or perpendicular parking.
Surround View Camera Uses cameras located around vehicle to present view of surroundings.
Trailer Assistance System that assists driver during backing maneuvers with a trailer attached.
MISC. DRIVING AIDS
DEFINITION
Automatic High Beams Deactivates or orients headlamp beams automatically based on lighting, surroundings, and traffic.
Driver Monitoring Monitors driver condition by various means to detect drowsiness or lack of attention.
Night Vision A system that aids driver vision at night by projecting enhanced images on instrument cluster or heads-up display.
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AAA Illuminates the Dangers of Driving with Cloudy Headlights

December 11th, 2018 by AAA Public Affairs

ORLANDO, Fla. (Dec. 11, 2018) – New research from AAA reveals that clouded or yellowed headlights generate only 20 percent of the amount of light that new headlights do, leading to dangerous nighttime driving conditions. This decrease is caused by sunlight damage to protective plastic coatings, resulting in discoloration that considerably diminishes the headlight’s ability to provide adequate light on dark roadways. With 50 percent of crashes occurring at night, AAA urges drivers to check their headlights for signs of deterioration and invest in new headlights or, at a minimum, a low-cost service to boost the safety of driving after dark.

Additional Resources

“Walk through any parking lot and it is evident that deteriorated headlights are a problem for most vehicle owners,” said Greg Brannon, AAA’s director of Automotive Engineering and Industry Relations. “Headlights on the road in the U.S., even when new, don’t produce a sufficient amount of lighting, so any reduction in performance is a real safety issue.”

AAA examined the impact deterioration can have on the amount of light produced by conducting research using an accredited laboratory to test headlights from two popular sedans, approximately 11 years in age. Results from the degraded headlights were measured against new headlights to quantify the amount of light produced for each. All testing was done in accordance with the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 108 as set forth by the Department of Transportation (DOT).

Research revealed that deteriorated headlights, when used on low beam, provided just 22 percent of the amount of light a new headlight does when operating at full capacity. AAA also examined the effects that replacing or restoring a headlight can have on improving the amount of light produced. Replacing  headlights with original equipment manufacturer parts is the most effective method to restore light output back to 100 percent.

Aftermarket parts also performed well, restoring light output between 83 and 90 percent, however these did fail to meet certain requirements for light intensity and were found to be more likely to produce glare for oncoming traffic. Restoring headlights, while the most cost effective option, offered less of an improvement in light output than replacement. Professional and DIY restoration returned light output back to approximately 70 percent. Both restoration methods, however, produced more glare than is acceptable according DOT criteria. 

Compounding the problem of driving with deteriorated headlights is the fact that U.S. headlights have significant shortcomings. Previous AAA research found that halogen headlights fail to safely illuminate unlit roadways at speeds as low as 40 mph, with high beam settings offering only marginal improvements. Even the most advanced headlights tested illuminated just 40 percent of the sight distances that the full light of day provides. By not maintaining headlights, drivers are unknowingly operating in dangerously dim conditions.

“Driving at night with headlights that produce only 20 percent of the light they did when new, which is already subpar, is a risk drivers shouldn’t take,” continued Brannon. “Especially when there are convenient and inexpensive solutions that can dramatically improve lighting performance.”

Most headlights are made of plastic and exposure to sunlight breaks down the plastic coating, causing discoloration that obscures the amount of light produced. Depending on where and how the vehicle is used, headlights can begin showing signs of deterioration as early as three years to five years.

Unlike batteries or tires, most drivers are not in the habit of routinely inspecting their headlights. AAA suggests drivers check their headlights for changes in appearance such as yellowing or clouding and if the bulb is difficult to see, it is time to have the lenses replaced or restored as soon as possible. AAA recommends replacement since this method offers the most improvement in the amount of light produced. Both replacement and restoration services are provided by many repair shops including many AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities.

Methodology

Headlight assemblies used in testing were for the left (driver’s) side of the vehicle. To quantify headlight performance, AAA contracted an accredited testing laboratory with expertise in automotive headlights and conducted testing according to industry standards. Headlights were tested according to FMVSS-108 standards with no modifications to the headlight assemblies under test or to the test procedures.

The professional headlight restoration systems used a power sanding technique to remove the original protective film from the headlight lens. The resulting scratched surface of the polycarbonate was then polished using increasingly finer grades of sanding discs and a protectant film applied to the entire surface of the headlight lens. Full methodology available in the research report found here.

About AAA

AAA provides more than 59 million members with automotive, travel, insurance and financial services through its federation of 35 motor clubs and nearly 1,100 branch offices across North America. Since 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for safe mobility. Drivers can request roadside assistance, identify nearby gas prices, locate discounts, book a hotel or map a route via the AAA Mobile app. To join, visit AAA.com.

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