Euro NCAP has announced assisted driving ratings for seven cars equipped with highway assist.
The BMW iX3 was graded very good while the Mustang Mach-E and Seat Cupra Formentor received good gradings.
Assist systems in Geely’s [Volvo Cars] Polestar 2 and the Hyundai Ioniq 5 were rated moderate while the Toyota Yaris and Opel [aka Vauxhall] Mokka-e achieved entry level status.
Highway assist systems help the driver to maintain a steady speed, to keep a safe distance from the car in front and to keep the vehicle in the centre of the lane by combining (intelligent) adaptive cruise control (ACC) with lane centering (LC). The systems are designed to assist the driver, not to take control, and the driver is expected to keep hands on the wheel and eyes on the road at all times.
Therefore, Euro NCAP tests not only the car’s ability to assist and promote safer driving, but also evaluates how the system engages the driver and, if the unexpected happens, what safety backup is offered by the vehicle.
The technology, first offered on premium vehicles, has gone mainstream in recent years and is now available on cars in all categories, albeit with varying degrees of sophistication and at different price points. In its previous rounds of assisted driving tests in 2018 and 2020, Euro NCAP found some vehicles promised more than they could deliver, implying, through their naming and interaction with the driver, they provided more automation than they were capable of doing.
All the cars tested in this round, however, offered a balance between assistance competence – the degree to which the system can help the driver – and driver engagement – the extent to which the driver feels they must remain in control and not disengage from the driving task.
Michiel van Ratingen, secretary general of Euro NCAP, said: “This balance between assistance and engagement is crucial. Cars are not yet capable of fully automated driving and drivers should not be misled into thinking that they are. Reports from America have highlighted the very serious problems that can happen when people have an unrealistically high expectation of what such systems can offer, and when the car in which they are driving does not actively try to get them back in the loop. We are pleased that the manufacturers represented in this round of tests make clear the level of support that they can provide.”
The iX3, a variant of the X3 range, has a new sensor set, not yet available on its combustion-engined stablemates and the grading of its automated driving system applied only to the electric version.
The Polestar 2 achieved a moderate grading, limited by its performance in vehicle assistance. Polestar would perform an over the air (OTA) software update software “very soon” and Euro NCAP said it “looks forward to assessing the upgraded vehicle in the near future”.