IIHS: Inconclusive Tests for Autonomous Driving

20 March 2024 BY Jean-Sébastien Poudrier

There was a time when automotive journalists had to test cars and nothing else. Today, I sometimes feel like we are more techno chroniclers. Well, see it as you wish, but it's clear that we have to test all the gadgets and technologies found in vehicles today.


This leads me to talk to you about autonomous driving, a technology that has been gaining popularity in recent years. Unfortunately, we are still far from perfection in this niche. While the radars and software that allow these systems to function well are generally effective, they sometimes fail. Let me tell you, I've been scared several times over the past few years, in a multitude of scenarios. Forgive me for the expression, but I almost soiled my underwear several times.


Manufacturers Falling Short


I'm not the only one who thinks that manufacturers still have a long way to go to offer a completely safe experience, which is why the IIHS (the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) has decided to look into the matter. Unfortunately, almost all manufacturers have failed the tests conducted by the American company specializing in measuring the safety level of vehicles.


IIHS has developed a new series of closed-course and on-road tests to measure the effectiveness of autonomous driving, and it turns out that no manufacturer has managed to achieve a "Good" rating. Only one manufacturer, Lexus, received an "Acceptable" rating, which is far from being a pride. Nissan and General Motors received a "Marginal" rating. The eleven other manufacturers that participated in the tests received a "Poor" rating.


However, it is important not to generalize since the ratings given by the IIHS will not be attributed to the manufacturers, but rather to the vehicles themselves. It is possible that a system is more effective on one vehicle than another, for various reasons. This is something that I have observed myself over the years. In fact, sometimes manufacturers update certain models and not others, which means that the system behaves completely differently.


It is important to understand that IIHS tests are particularly rigorous and severe. This does not mean that the autonomous driving systems of automotive manufacturers are dangerous. However, they are not perfect, and that's why you should always maintain maximum attention on the road even when autonomous driving is engaged. See these systems as driving aids and not as a form of virtual driver. Who knows, maybe we'll get there one day, but for now, that's far from being the case?


Jean-Sébastien Poudrier