Grading system launched to tackle 'dangerous misconception' of self-driving tech

Grading system launched to tackle 'dangerous misconception' of self-driving tech
Image: Euro NCAP
Drivers will be better equipped to understand adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency driving and other assisted driving features on modern cars thanks to a new grading system launched this month.

Car safety experts Thatcham Research and Euro NCAP launched the first-of-its-kind Assisted Driver Grading in response to the “dangerous misconception” that motorists can buy a truly ‘self-driving’ car.

Thatcham highlighted the “significant potential for car makers to overstate the capability of their current assisted driving technology and for motorists to misuse it.”

A rating of Very Good, Good, Moderate or Entry, is awarded to cars depending on their performance during a range of tests.

Cars are graded on three criteria: vehicle assistance (how effective the systems are), driver engagement (whether the car assesses if the driver is still in control of the vehicle) and safety back-up (whether or not the car protects the driver in the event of an emergency).

One system that’s put through its paces is Highway Assist. The feature uses Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) and Lane Centering (LC) technology to help drivers maintain a steady speed and keep a safe distance from other cars when driving on the motorway.

Matthew Avery, Thatcham’s director of research, said: “The systems that are currently allowed on our roads are there to assist the driver – but do not replace them.

“Unfortunately, there are motorists that believe they can purchase a self-driving car today. This is a dangerous misconception that sees too much control handed to vehicles that are not ready to cope with all situations.”

After the first round of assessments, the Mercedes GLE comes in top of the class.

Assisted Driver Grading results

VehicleOverall ScoreGrading
1Mercedes-Benz GLE174Very Good
2BMW 3 Series172Very Good
3Audi Q8162Very Good
4Ford Kuga152Good
5VW Passat137Moderate
6Tesla Model 3131Moderate
7Nissan Juke124Moderate
8Volvo V60120Moderate
9Renault Clio105Entry
10Peugeot 208101Entry

Mr Avery added: “The first batch of results show some car makers have developed robust assisted driving systems and that's good to see. But there are also significant gaps in capability on other vehicles.”

While the Tesla Model 3 was the best for vehicle assistance and safety back-up, the all-electric car lost points for overselling its ‘Autopilot’ system, which was found to discourage drivers from engaging when behind the wheel.

“Clarity is therefore required to make sure drivers understand the capability and performance of current assisted systems,” said Mr Avery.

“It’s crucial today’s technology is adopted safely before we take the next step on the road to automation. There are safety and insurance implications that must be considered seriously.”

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