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Safety Alert: Forward-Collision And Lane-Departure Systems

On Behalf of | Sep 20, 2016 | Safety

As advanced safety technology spreads throughout vehicle lineups, automakers and suppliers are getting broader feedback about their effectiveness. Two safety systems illustrate the varying results.

Forward-collision warning

Forward-collision warning (FCW) is an advanced safety feature that Consumer Reports highly recommends. But the sensitivities of the systems that allow them to react to a potential crash sometimes yield false alerts that can be an irritation to car owners. Despite the false alerts, responses to a 2016 Consumer Reports survey on advanced safety systems indicate a clear majority of drivers still appreciate having the feature. The survey also shows that some automakers’ systems strike a better balance between alerting drivers of actual danger and notifying them when there is no hazard.

By using laser, radar, or cameras, forward-collision warning systems monitor driving speed and objects ahead. If a collision may be forthcoming, the system gives the driver a warning that allows them time to take action and hopefully prevent an accident. But how well the system is designed determines the reduction in the frequency of fake alerts that may make drivers less likely to react or to shut the systems off.

Consumer Reports performed a survey and according to their survey responses, the majority of people are satisfied with the systems-and 36 percent said that the systems saved them from accidents. They also found that some brands do a better job of offering reassurance to owners without the annoyance of too many alerts. Subaru topped the list of brands with owners who had the fewest false alerts-with less than 1 percent of Subaru owners experiencing frequent false alerts. Rounding out the list of the top five brands with the least amount of false alerts are Nissan, Toyota, Ford and Audi.

Forward-collision warning is an accident prevention alert; by their very nature, those kinds of alerts are intentionally startling. They are meant to grab attention, with the goal to improve safety. More than 90 percent of all auto accidents are directly due to human error and driver choices. FCW counteracts that risk that by making the driver aware of an impending collision.

Consumers who have been saved from a crash become believers, says Dean McConnell, leader of sales, project management and business development for Continental Automotive Systems. “This is a case where people see the benefit,” McConnell said. “They want to see it work, and they want to have it on all the time.” Acura spokesman Matt Sloustcher says that, among safety systems, collision mitigation especially wins converts. Sloustcher said: “It’s a powerful experience for anyone in a car with [collision mitigation] the first time the system deploys.”

Lane-departure warning

Lane departure warning systems use a combination of cameras and sensors to read dividers on roadways and alert a driver when their vehicle has strayed from their designated lane. If the technology senses the vehicle is moving out of its lane, the system may warn the driver either by flashing a light, sounding an audible alert, or by making the car’s steering wheel or seat vibrate. More advanced lane-keeping systems may even work to keep the car in its lane without the driver’s intervention.

But while lane departure warning systems may be gaining popularity, it’s unclear if the technology is really saving lives by preventing crashes. IIHS tracking methods have not found any evidence to suggest that lane departure technology has played a role in preventing collisions. IIHS tracks data based on insurance claims, and so far a pattern on the effectiveness of lane departure system has not clearly emerged.

There is another problem with lane-departure warning system. This is the most problem-ridden active safety system. David Kidd, an IIHS senior researcher, says the group “had high hopes” for lane-departure warning but found consumers don’t like having a “turn-signal nanny.” “We are seeing benefits from other systems, but with lane-departure warning, we are not,” Kidd said. An IIHS study found that two-thirds of drivers turned off the function, which alerts drivers who leave a lane without signaling. By contrast, the study found that less than 1 percent of drivers deactivated forward-collision warning. Experts say lane-departure warning alienated consumers in two ways. The system’s alerts may irritate drivers, especially if it uses sounds. John Capp, General Motors director of global safety strategy, says consumers like alerts better if “you’re not necessarily announcing to your friend in the front seat that “I swerved a little, and I crossed over.'”

Capp: Drivers turn off systems with beeps.

GM found that more than half of its drivers turned off its system when it used warning beeps. But when GM switched the warning to vibrations in the driver’s seat, two-thirds of drivers kept the system on, Capp said. “How we do the [human machine interface] really, really matters,” he said. But there’s another problem. Lane-departure warning is meant to combat a serious danger — accidents in which a driver runs off the road, often because of sleepiness or intoxication. But changing lanes without signaling is common among drivers who aren’t drunk or drowsy. Glen De Vos, Delphi Automotive vice president of engineering, notes that “normal drivers do that,” so the system winds up sending alerts when no safety problem exists. “I think initially with these systems, there were a lot of false positives, and it was irritating,” he said. Delphi’s solution is to add “driver-state sensing,” De Vos says, using an in-car camera to determine whether the driver is facing forward and looking at the road. The feature will launch with production vehicles in Europe next year, he said.

If you or a loved one was injured as a result of a car accident caused by a car rear-ending their vehicle or a car leaving their designated lane, contact us at Brannon & Brannon for a free consultation at (850)659-2252 or through our website at




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