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Can Driver Assist Systems Fail in Bad Weather?

Posted on: January 3, 2022

Advanced driver assist systems (ADAS) are commonplace technology in modern cars and trucks and do not increase the cost of new vehicles significantly. However, new research is showing that that these devices are not 100 percent reliable in all situations. Many drivers might think that having ADAS means that it is not necessary to check rear view mirrors or give their full attention to the road, but this has been proved not to be true. These systems will not completely prevent a car accident.

Anyone who has vehicles equipped with these systems should know that a recent report by AAA and the Automobile Club of Southern California’s Automotive Research Center describes how lane assist and automatic braking systems failed in some of their tests. These ADAS are normally tested in optimal driving conditions, not during inclement weather, yet this is when drivers need as much safety help as they can get.

What Did the AAA Tests Show?

Vehicle ADAS rely on their cameras and sensors to see roadway obstacles, other cars, pedestrians, and road markings. Environment factors such as rain can affect how well the systems work, so testing ADAS in adverse weather conditions makes a lot of sense. For the AAA test, they used a closed course and simulated rainfall sprayed onto the vehicles’ windshields and other environmental conditions such as dirt and bugs. The vehicles tested were four 2020 SUVs: Buick Enclave, Volkswagen Tiguan, Toyota RAV4, and the Hyundai Santa Fe.

It was found that when these forward emergency braking-equipped cars traveled at 25 mph, they crashed with stopped vehicles 17 percent of the time. When moving at 35 mph in the same wet conditions, these vehicles crashed 33 percent of the time. It was theorized that the percentages would be increased at faster speeds. The test vehicles did not crash in the same situations when the driving conditions were optimal.

The lane keeping systems performed in similar fashions. The failure rate of not wandering across lane markers in poor weather conditions was 69 percent, but 17 percent when the roads were dry and clear. Bug-smeared and dirty windows did not significantly affect the ADAS performance.

How ADAS Systems Fail

Since these systems rely on their sensors or cameras, anything that obscures or blocks them can be a problem. Backup cameras can get blocked by raindrops, cruise control systems can stop functioning because of built-up ice, and so on. As a result, ADAS systems can fail when drivers need them the most.

If drivers do not remember to clean their car’s sensors and cameras every now and then, the accumulated dirt and debris can prevent the systems from working. A few newer models have built-in devices that clean the front and rearview cameras used for 360-degree views. However, the radar sensors are usually inside the fenders and grills, so for now there is no reliable way to clean them. Some vehicles do have alerts that will let drivers know when ADAS systems are not working. 

Should I Have a Vehicle with ADAS?

Although AAA has pointed out this problem with ADAS, they also acknowledge that having the system is safer than not having one. They post that ADAS can decrease the chances of getting into accidents and improve overall driving safety; the systems just need to be fine-tuned. They are not a replacement for human awareness, so the best advice is to have ADAS but to act as though it is not there. The AAA recommends buying vehicles that have the most advanced safety features available.

Auto manufacturers have been testing systems that, it is hoped, will eventually be able to better and/or automatically clean sensors and cameras. One product in development uses engine heat to warm up washer fluid, and this technology could later be used for ADAS. Advanced cleaning systems may be able to maintain and observe sensors and cameras, see when they are dirty or obstructed, and clean them. 3M has a transparent, adhesive film that may be used to keep sensors clean and in better working order.

Another company is working on a system that will use fluid to clean the cameras, plus compressed air to dry the lenses. In the future, it is possible that vehicles will have as many as 14 cameras, so this is a significant concern.

How Can I Drive Safely in the Rain?

AAA admits that ADAS systems can provide safety benefits, but this is not a substitute for safe, defensive driving. When driving in the rain, decrease your speed and avoid sharp turns. Try to follow in the tracks of other cars and avoid slamming on your brakes whenever possible. Tailgating is always dangerous, so increase your following distance to five or six seconds behind the vehicle in front of you when it is wet or icy out.

If your vehicle’s tires lose traction, try to remain calm. With a front-wheel skid when you cannot turn the wheels, lightly press on the brake pedal. If you do not have anti-lock brakes, slowly pump the brakes until you regain traction. Hydroplaning can be controlled if you gradually ease off the accelerator until the tires start to gain traction. Look and steer in the direction you want to go in. Other than that, do not use cruise control in inclement weather and always keep your windshield clean and wipers in good shape; replace them if they are squeaking.

What Should I Do if I Get into a Car Accident?

If you end up getting into a serious motor vehicle accident, try to stay as calm as possible and see if anyone in your vehicle is hurt. Call 911 right away, especially if you suspect any injuries. Depending on where the accident happened, you might want to move your vehicle to a safe location if it is possible to do so. Try to take pictures of the accident scene, especially the other vehicle and its license plate. Some drivers will attempt to flee the scene so that they will not be held accountable for their actions.

When help arrives, it may be necessary for one or more survivors to be transported to the hospital. It is best to have someone stay with the vehicle to speak with law enforcement officers if possible. Police will ask questions and provide contact information for you to get an accident report. When speaking with the officers, provide short, concise answers to their questions. If you talk too much or say the wrong thing, this could be held against you later.

Also call your insurance provider as soon as you get the chance. Do the same thing with them; avoid elaborating and the desire provide too much information. When things proceed smoothly, you can expect to receive an insurance payment within a reasonable amount of time. If the other driver claims that you were at fault for the accident, things become more complicated. Therefore, it is always a good idea to gather evidence such as photographs of the vehicles, skid marks, weather conditions, and time of day. Also exchange information with the other driver; you will want to know the name of their insurance provider.  If you have any problems dealing with the driver or getting your benefits, you may need to reach out to an experienced car accident lawyer for help.

Freehold Car Accident Lawyers at Ellis Law Offer Legal Representation for Individuals Involved in Accidents Caused by Bad Weather

The most advanced ADAS in cars can help prevent accidents but are not 100 percent reliable. If you have been involved in an accident involving an ADAS that failed, reach out to the experienced Freehold car accident lawyers at Ellis Law. We will be your advocate and give you the assistance you need. For a free consultation, call us at 732-308-0200 or complete our online form. We are located in Freehold, New Jersey, and help clients throughout Freehold, East Brunswick, Toms River, Middletown, Jersey City, Neptune, Hudson County, Union County, Essex County, Monmouth County, Marlboro, and Ocean County, as well as Brooklyn, New York, and New York City.

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