Revealed: The Mercedes GLE has the worlds best 'assisted driving' features
The family SUV ranked highest in the Thatcham Research Assisted Driving Grading test designed to 'give consumers clarity' on advanced safety systems
October 2020: Safety assessors Thatcham Research and Euro NCAP have revealed their brand-new 'Assisted Driving assessments' designed to give motorists the "crucial" insight they believe is necessary in order to understand how to use the current generation of assisted driving technology safely.
With many new vehicles featuring some form of assisted driving system, Thatcham Research and Euro NCAP felt it important that a clear, concise grading method is adopted to rank these systems.
The BMW 3 series came second overall in the assessment, thanks to its plethora of safety features and well-explained technology
The All-New Assisted Driving Grading System from Thatcham and Euro NCAP
From lane-keeping assistance to so-called 'self-driving' capabilities, the current market is flooded with all manner of driver aids. While they have been designed with supporting the driver in mind, some systems have been found to be misleading, or are overly complex in their use.
Confusions around the safe use and limitations of such systems has sadly been the cause of many tragic accidents and serious collisions in the last few years. Therefore, Thatcham Research and Euro NCAP have stepped in to provide a much-needed understanding of these systems, resulting in the new at-a-glance Assisted Driving Grading system.
Sadly, the new Renault Clio fared badly in the grading assessment due to its lack of emergency assist capabilities.
“The systems that are currently allowed on our roads are there to assist the driver – but do not replace them,” explains Matthew Avery, Thatcham’s Director of Research; “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."
“Clarity is therefore required to make sure drivers understand the capability and performance of current assisted systems. 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.”
The new Kuga faired well in the assessment, receiving a 'good' score overall
With the leading ten cars across a number of market segments gathered, the test field ranged from the Tesla Model 3 to the current Renault Clio and Nissan Juke, ensuring that the assessment was as diverse as possible.
The cars were tested across three performance criteria:
How effective the speed assistance, steering assistance, and adaptive cruise control systems were.
How accurate was the manufacturers marketing material - did it mislead the capabilities of the systems; How effectively did the vehicle monitor the driver to ensure they are still engaged with the driving process; How easily could the driver interact with the system, and how clearly did the car communicate assisted status.
How well did the vehicle protect the driver in an emergency, e.g system failure, the driver becoming unresponsive, or if the vehicle is about to collide with an object or another vehicle. What happened when there is a loss of sensor input.
The vehicles involved in the assessment were then given an overall rating, based upon the results of the previous three criteria. In each criteria, the vehicles were scored out of 200, with the higher the score, the better the systems were.
Mercedes-Benz GLE Awarded Top Score In Driver Assistance Test
As you can see, the Mercedes-Benz GLE came out on top, scoring consistently high across all three categories.
The BMW 3-series was a very close second, but unfortunately missed out on the top spot despite the slightly higher safety backup score.
At the bottom of the table, the entry-level Renault Clio and Peugeot 2008 scored well in the Vehicle Assistance and Driver Engagement categories, but were dragged down the table by the lack of emergency assist capabilities.
The Tesla Model 3 only received a 'moderate' score in the assessment, due to poor driver engagement
Tesla Model 3 Driver Assistance Safety
Of course, no test like this could be conducted without mentioning the elephant in the room - Tesla's autopilot system. Despite scoring highest in two out of the three categories, the Tesla Model 3 recorded the lowest score for Driver Engagement, resulting in its 'moderate' final score.
“For instance, the Tesla Model 3 was the best for vehicle assistance and safety back-up. But lost ground for over selling what its ‘Autopilot’ system is capable of, while actively discouraging driver from engaging when behind the wheel."
Avery continued: "Tesla should however be recognised for its ability to update vehicles ‘Over the Air’. Two years ago, it’s safety back up results would not have been market-leading. This unique capability has seen it move the safety game on, across its whole fleet of vehicles.”
The future of autonomous driving in the UK
Looking to the future, the UK government is aiming to allow self-driving, so-called automated cars onto the roads during 2021 under extreme supervision and in limited circumstances. Thatcham Research and Euro NCAP recognise the potential safety benefits of automated technology and encourage its development, but want to ensure that it is done so safely.
They believe a 'staged' graduation from assisted driving systems to more sophisticated, self-driving technology, is imperative to ensure safety, rather than simply flicking the switch and making drivers obsolete overnight: “Our assessments highlight that, while today’s driver assist systems can support the driver, they are not capable of, nor designed to, take complete control in all critical situations,” Avery said.