Electronic Assistants Prove Popular

Accident researchers and road safety experts agree that the use of driver assistance systems can significantly reduce the number of crash fatalities. State-of-the-art technology in vehicles can help to compensate for human error to a certain extent – including that caused by age-related performance deficits. But which systems are people familiar with? Which ones are fitted to vehicles, and which ones are being used in real life? And how do car drivers rate the benefits of these systems? To answer these questions, the market research and opinion polling company forsa carried out a representative survey for the latest DEKRA Road Safety Report 2021 entitled “Old-Age Mobility.” Around 2,000 randomly selected German car drivers from all age groups were surveyed.

Survey Assistance Systems 2
  • Parking assistant is by far the most widely used assistance system
  • Vast majority would like a more standardized way of operating the systems
  • Drivers need to learn more about benefits and limits of the systems

Assistance systems are becoming an increasingly important way of ensuring and enhancing road safety. Examples of such systems include adaptive cruise control, automated emergency braking, lane guard assistants, blind spot assistants, fatigue warning systems, camera-based active light systems and night vision assistants, to name but a few. All these systems are designed to assist the driver and, if required, can compensate for errors they make.

Considering the “General Safety Regulation”, which was adopted by the EU Commission in March 2019, state-of-the-art technology in vehicles is set to play an even bigger role in future. The Regulation makes a variety of safety-related driver assistance systems a legal requirement for new vehicles in Europe over several phases, starting in 2022. “However, alongside the statutory regulations, the key to achieving widespread use of these systems is ensuring that they are well received by drivers,” explains Walter Niewöhner, expert in driver assistance systems at DEKRA.

In Germany these systems have gone down well, as evidenced by the results of the forsa survey commissioned by DEKRA.

When asked to rate the existence of assistance systems to help drivers, 83% of those surveyed across all age groups believed this was “very good” or “good” (for men the figure was 87%; for women it was 77%). 94% of men aged between 18 and 44 responded positively to this question – the highest percentage of all groups. For the 65+ demographic, the figure was 81% for men and 70% for women.

When analyzed over all age groups, around 70% of those surveyed stated that they have a vehicle fitted with assistance systems. At 82%, men aged 65 and over make up the highest percentage in this respect. By contrast, women aged 65 and over make up the lowest percentage at 63%.

Who uses which systems?
By far the most commonly used assistance system among those surveyed is the parking assistant (75%), followed by the (high-beam) light assistant (42%), lane departure warning system (38%), adaptive cruise control (35%), and traffic sign recognition system (30%). For the most part, men tend to use these systems much more than women.

There are also big differences when it comes to the age groups, as in the case of the blind spot / lane change assistant. For men aged 18 to 24, 48% of those surveyed said that they had used such a system before, whereas only 22% of men aged 65 and over made the same claim. The difference was less pronounced among the women included in the survey, though only 22% of the women in the younger age group had used this system, compared to 14% of older women. Another interesting finding was in the 18-to-24 age group, where the parking assistant was used by 82% of women and 85% of men – higher figures than for the other age groups. By way of comparison, only 55% of older drivers surveyed stated that they used the parking assistant.

What aspects were considered particularly useful?
If the drivers surveyed stated they were already familiar with, or had already used, the assistance system in question, they were also asked to evaluate how useful and helpful they found it. The findings showed that all assistance systems were rated as rather or very useful by a clear majority (at least three quarters of those surveyed in each case). This applies in particular to the blind spot / lane change assistant (93%) and the parking assistant (91%). A similarly high proportion also considered the predictive automated emergency braking system (88%) and the adaptive cruise control (85%) to be rather or very useful.

The drivers were also asked which driver assistance systems they would consider an absolute must in their next car purchase if money were no object. At 84%, the parking assistant topped the list, followed by the blind spot/lane change assistant (72%), then the predictive automated emergency braking system and adaptive cruise control (both 62%), and the lane departure warning system (53%).

Desire for a more standardized operating principle
A further interesting aspect is the fact that the operation of the assistance systems and the way they are activated and deactivated varies depending on the vehicle model. Across every age group, 83% of those surveyed agreed that it was necessary and sensible to make sure that the way these systems are operated is as uniform and standardized as possible in all cars – just like the turn signal controls. This opinion was shared by 89% of the 65-and-over age group included in the survey, and 95% of those aged 75 and over.

A need for comprehensive education about assistance systems
The aim of the survey was not to establish the status quo for driver assistance systems in the German market, but rather to discover more about how much drivers knew about how assistance systems work and find out their wishes and expectations with regard to driver assistance. “The results of the survey clearly show that many people know very little about assistance systems, and do not know what the names of the systems mean or which systems are actually installed in their own vehicles,” says Walter Niewöhner. For example, around ten percent of those surveyed stated they had experience with dooring prevention system and night vision assistant – systems that are currently not available in almost any vehicle. “This example alone demonstrates how important it is to comprehensively educate people about which systems there are, how effective they are, and where their limits lie,” added Niewöhner.

Further findings from the survey, in particular the role that driver assistance systems play in ensuring safe mobility for older people, can be found in the DEKRA Road Safety Report 2021 entitled “Old-Age Mobility.” It can be found at www.dekra-roadsafety.com.