SAE WCX 2022: OEM Learnings from Level 2 ADAS

Drivers and automakers are learning the parameters of automated driver assist technologies.

Advancing technologies complicates the division between assistive and automated vehicle functions. (Continental)

Drivers behave differently when a driver assist technology is engaged. They tend to drive faster, look away from the road more often and for longer periods of time, and they engage in distracting behaviors more often during automated driving time versus full-on manual driving. Those are the key findings from a research project spearheaded by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Advanced Vehicle Consortium.

“It’s absolutely imperative that the driver be paying attention all the time in order to use these systems safely,” said David Zuby, executive VP and chief research officer for IIHS. Zuby’s assessment set the stage for the April 5 Leadership Summit panel discussion at SAE WCX 2022 , addressing SAE Level 2 driving automation.

Driver assistance technologies are becoming more commonplace on new vehicles. Ford’s BlueCruise hands-free driving system is currently available on the Ford F-150 and Mach-E. The system, which builds off intelligent adaptive cruise control with stop and go, lane centering and speed sign recognition, is tailored for so-called BlueZones that encompass 130,000 miles (209,215 km) of divided highway across America. BlueCruise “is a driver assistance feature. This is not autonomous driving. This is a driver as part of the driving process,” said Emily Frascaroli, global director of Ford’s Automotive Safety Engineering Office.

SAE Level 2 panelists, from left: moderator David Zuby from IIHS, Ford’s Emily Frascaroli, Hyundai’s Steven Gehring, BMW’s Dominik Schuster, and Nick Sitarski of Toyota R&D. (Lindsay Brooke)

To help educate drivers on using driver assist systems, Ford relies on a variety of information venues, including personnel at dealerships, videos on, and vehicle owner guides. “Once consumers have a baseline understanding of what technology does, then it’s less confusing for them,” Frascaroli said.

Getting drivers to use new vehicle technology correctly usually requires more than a slight nudge, noted Steven Gehring, executive director of North American Safety Regulations and Policy for Hyundai Motor North America. Decades ago, when ABS started to become commonplace on passenger cars, many drivers failed to understand that pumping the brakes was a no-no. “With any technology, there’s always going to be a learning challenge,” said Gehring.

With more than 40 SAE Level 1 and Level 2 technologies in its product portfolio, BMW is seeing a demand for more. “This keeps us innovative, creative,” said Dominik Schuster, VP of Vehicle Safety for the BMW Group. Drivers tend to view driver assist technologies from a specific perspective. “With automatic cruise control, BMW customers might use it 50 percent of the time while driving on highways. But they’re not using the system because they want to drive safe, they’re using it because they want to be more comfortable,” Schuster said.

SAE International’s J3016 chart shows the different levels of driving automation. (SAE)

Nick Sitarski, VP of integrated vehicle systems at Toyota Motor North America R&D, said the automaker’s Level 2 systems were designed for convenience and reduced driver fatigue. “But components that make up the Level 2 system do, on their own, provide a safety benefit,” Sitarski said. In the future, Sitarski expects existing driver assist technologies to be further refined.

That product refinement correlates to technology relevance for years to come. A looming challenge, however, will be when Level 2 and Level 3 automation levels [see chart, below] combine in the same vehicle, according to BMW’s Schuster. While engineers might understand what a specific driver assist system can and can’t do, other individuals will need to be educated on proper usage.