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Mercedez-Benz’s GLE rated as Europe’s safest automated vehicle


With advancing technology, many new cars come equipped with automated features that appear to give them some degree of autonomous capability. The problem is, all these systems are slightly different and that has caused confusion and danger, and in some cases led to fatalities.

Vehicle safety testing house and ratings firms, Thatcham Research and Euro NCAP, have been monitoring these new advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and today release their first ever ratings of automated lane-keeping systems (ALKS).

That’s a lot of acronyms so let’s break this down. Thatcham has been researching how effective and safe systems like Tesla’s Autopilot are. Specifically, researchers have been looking at the features that allow a vehicle to accelerate, brake, and steer to maintain a position and a safe distance from the car in front, in a highway lane.

[Read: 5 things to know when you’re buying your first electric vehicle]

Thatcham Research tested a number of popular vehicles that feature lane keeping ADAS tech using three main criteria: vehicle assistance, drive engagement, and safety backup. Vehicles tested included the Mercedes-Benz GLE, BMW 3 Series, Audi Q8, Ford Kuga, Tesla Model 3, and Volvo V60.

The automated safety feature test

The vehicle assistance criteria refers to how well the speed, steering, and adaptive cruise control features work in collaboration to control the vehicle’s direction and velocity.

Driver engagement is an often overlooked metric when considering the effectiveness of ADAS systems. For Thatcham’s research, this rating considers how accurate the carmaker’s advertising and marketing materials are; how effective the car’s driver monitoring system is; how easy it is for the driver to control the ADAS feature; and how clearly does the car communicate its status when assisting the driver.

Finally, Thatcham also considers what safety nets the car has in its safety back-up rating. This considers how the driver is protected in the case of an ADAS failure, what happens when the driver is unresponsive or if the car is about to collide with another vehicle, and what happens when sensors malfunction. Typically, these kinds of functions are referred to as driver hand off procedures, or in other words, how does the system give control back to the driver.

With all that in mind, Thatcham Research considers a very good ALK system to be one that controls the vehicle safely, monitors the driver closely, and has robust safety features in the case of failure. But the researchers also recognize what driver perception of the system is likely to be, as this will affect real-world safety.

That’s an important consideration to make. ADAS technologies have been proven to improve vehicle safety, but only when used appropriately. We’ve seen all too often the disastrous outcomes that occur when these systems are misused because drivers thought they were more capable than they really are and didn’t pay appropriate attention.

The results

Take a look at the table below for full results from Thatcham. The short story, though: the Mercedes-Benz GLE scored the highest overall, with consistently high scores across each of the three testing categories. It scored the highest of all vehicles specifically for driver engagement. This suggests it’s an easy-to-use system that’s sold with clear marketing.

Speaking of the Mercedes GLE, Thatcham Director of research, Matthew Avery, said: “Our overall top scorer with consistently high scores across all testing categories. Keeps the driver engaged with plenty of clear communication regarding the assistance offered. Provides really useful assistance, but not so much that drivers will believe the car can drive itself.”

Credit: Thatcham Research