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Study links adaptive cruise control to increased crash risk

Study links adaptive cruise control to increased crash risk
© Greg Nash

The use of adaptive cruise control technology puts drivers at a higher risk of traffic accidents due to increased likelihood of speeding, according to a study released Thursday by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

Drivers who used adaptive cruise control technology in a 40-person study were more likely to speed compared to individuals using manual control. Cars with the technology exceeded the speed limit 95 percent of the time, while manual drivers broke the speed limit 77 percent of the time.

Drivers using adaptive cruise control with added lane centering were also more likely to speed, doing so 96 percent of the time.

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The study's authors calculated that the level of increased speeding using adaptive cruise control (ACC) and partial automation drivers meant the technology led to a 10 percent higher risk of a fatal crash.

The authors noted that they used a common formula for “calculating probable crash outcomes,” as the study did not directly analyze “real-world crashes.”

Forty licensed drivers from the Boston metro area participated in the study. They were given either a 2017 Volvo S90 or a 2016 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque to drive for about four weeks.

“ACC does have some safety benefits, but it’s important to consider how drivers might cancel out these benefits by misusing the system,” Sam Monfort, IIHS statistician and the study's lead author, said in a statement. “Speed at impact is among the most important factors in whether or not a crash turns out to be fatal.”

“Driving faster is more dangerous. You can’t argue with physics,” he added.

A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration spokesperson told The Hill that the agency is aware of the IIHS report, and that they “frequently collaborate with them [IIHS] on highway safety issues.”

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The spokesperson added, however, that the agency does not comment on other organization's research.

Advanced cruise control is different from conventional cruise control in that it adjusts a car’s speed to match the pace of the leading car, the study says. The technology removes the driver's need to continuously brake and reset the system. Some systems now also include a lane centering feature.

Drivers can still set speeds above the legal limit.

Previous analysis by the Highway Loss Data Institute, a research group affiliated with IIHS, found that some adaptive cruise control systems may lower crash risks. Other studies, the authors noted, have found that the technology increases the distance between cars at default settings compared to most human drivers, which they say “reduce the frequency of passing and other lane changes.”

Updated at 3:11 p.m.