Safety First

IIHS: Adaptive cruise control leads to reckless driving behaviors

Nissan's ProPilot Assist technology debuted in 2018.

Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

Technology is supposed to make us better drivers, right? A new report from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) indicates that just the opposite is happening.

Adaptive cruise control is an upgraded version of traditional cruise control. It allows users to set a speed then it regulates the vehicles speed according to the traffic around it, within certain parameters. If the car in front of the vehicle slows down, the tech is designed to slow down the vehicle accordingly. If the car in front speeds up, the technology will speed up the vehicle up to the point of the set speed.

Some varieties of adaptive cruise control can slow the vehicle to a stop then start it moving again within a certain time period.

IIHS researchers have found that some divers are using adaptive cruise control as a tool for speeding, which the organization is concerned undermines the feature's potential safety benefits. The study found that drivers are substantially more likely to speed when adaptive cruise control or partial automation technology combines with lane centering tech.

"Adaptive cruise control does have some safety benefits, but it's important to consider how drivers might cancel out these benefits by misusing the system," says IIHS Statistician Sam Monfort, the lead author of the paper. "Speed at impact is among the most important factors in whether or not a crash turns out to be fatal."

An analysis of insurance claims data by the IIHS-affiliated Highway Loss Data Institute and other research indicate that adaptive cruise control may lower crash risk. To do this, they maintain a greater following distance as their default setting than most human driers would traditionally follow. Studies have also shown that they reduce the frequency of passing and other lane changes.

IIHS describes its study methodology:

"To find out the impact ACC and lane centering technologies have on speeding, IIHS researchers analyzed the behavior of 40 drivers from the Boston metro area over a four-week period using data collected by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Advanced Vehicle Technology Consortium. These drivers were provided with a 2016 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque outfitted with ACC or with a 2017 Volvo S90 equipped with ACC and Pilot Assist — a partial automation system that combines ACC with lane centering. The data suggest that drivers were 24 percent more likely to drive over the speed limit on limited-access highways when those systems were turned on. The amount by which they exceeded the speed limit when they did speed was also greater when they were using the driver assistance features compared with driving manually.

"Whether driving manually or using ACC or Pilot Assist, speeders exceeded the limit by the largest margin in zones with a 55 mph limit. In these areas, speeders averaged about 8 mph over the limit, compared with 5 mph in 60 mph and 65 mph zones. ACC also had the largest impact on how much they exceeded the limit in zones where it was 55 mph. In these slower zones, they averaged a little more than 1 mph higher over the limit when using ACC or Pilot Assist than they did driving manually.

"That 1 mph increase may not sound like much. Leaving aside any other effect these features may have on crash risk, however, it means ACC and partial automation users are at about 10 percent higher risk of a fatal crash, according to a common formula for calculating probable crash outcomes. This study did not analyze real-world crashes."

"Driving faster is more dangerous," says Monfort. "You can't argue with physics."

IIHS is quick to point out that their study did not account for several other factors that have been shown to reduce crash frequency and severity.

The organization also chose to test using vehicles that only allow drivers to bump their selected speed up or down by 5 mph increments at the touch of a button, which they say may explains why users exceeded the legal limit by larger amounts.

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New compact luxury SUV

2022 Lexus NX gets new tech and PHEV drivetrain

The NX is all-new for 2022.

Lexus

The NX may not be Lexus' most popular SUV – that title goes to the RX – but it's got a lot to offer in a compact package. Lexus redesigned the NX for 2022, and the big stories are its new PHEV powertrain, updated tech, and improved safety features.

The 2022 NX 450h+ is Lexus' first plug-in hybrid vehicle. It's expected to deliver 36 miles all-electric range, 84 MPGe combined, a 0-60 mph time of six seconds. It's joined in the NX lineup by the NX 350h hybrid, which uses a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with two high-torque motor-generators that produce a combined output of 239 horsepower. The NX 350h is capable of returning 39 mpg combined and a 0-60 mph time of 7.2 seconds.

2022 Lexus NX New tech and updated safety features are headline changes for 2022.Lexus

A turbocharged gas engine rounds out the NX powertrain selection. It's a 2.4-liter unit that makes 203 horsepower and 184 horsepower. Surprisingly, it's weaker than both of the hybrid powertrains, and is only capable of a 0-60 mph time of 8.2 seconds with front-wheel drive. Fuel economy lands at 28 mpg combined.

The new NX comes standard with a 9.8-inch touchscreen that employs a new Lexus interface to make interactions smoother and easier. A 14-inch touchscreen is optional, and includes a three-year trial for a bundle of connected services. Lexus offers a new connected smartphone feature that allows drivers to store their vehicle profiles in the cloud and take them to other Lexus vehicles equipped with the tech.

2022 Lexus NX The NX gets a PHEV powertrain option for the first time.Lexus

The Lexus Interface also offers advanced voice controls and a new voice assistant feature. The automaker says that it was designed to recognize natural speech, and uses two microphones with noise cancellation, seat detection, and speaker location capabilities. Drivers can ask for the weather, traffic situations, control the audio system, and more with their voice.

The NX's safety features got a boost for 2022 as well. Standard features now include risk avoidance emergency steer assist, left-turn oncoming vehicle detection and braking, right/left turn oncoming pedestrian detection and braking, and dynamic radar cruise control with curve speed management.

2022 Lexus NX F Sport models get sporty interior finishes.Lexus

The 2022 Lexus NX should begin arriving on dealers' lots in December 2021. Pricing for the NX 250 FWD starts at $39,025, which includes a $1,075 destination fee. The range-topping NX 450h+ starts at $56,635.

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The new Tiguan sports an all-new front-end design.

Volkswagen

The Volkswagen Tiguan is an interesting compact SUV with a fun-to-drive personality and plenty of style. After 14 years on sale, the Tiguan is just in its second generation, but VW has given it a significant update for the 2022 model year that brings new tech, updated styling, and a refreshed interior.

2022 Volkswagen Tiguan The rear has been massaged with new badging and standard LED taillights. Volkswagen

The restyled Tiguan is available in four trim levels: S, SE, and SE R-Line Black. All models get a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 184 horsepower and 221 pound-feet of torque. An eight-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive are standard, but VW's 4Motion all-wheel drive can be optioned in.

Styling updates are the big story for the 2022 Tiguan. The front end is entirely new and carries design cues from the larger Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport. LED headlights are now standard, and an illuminated light line is available for the SUV's grille. On the rear liftgate, the Tiguan model name lettering also mirrors that of the Atlas, with the name spelled out underneath the VW logo.

2022 Volkswagen Tiguan Most trims get an 8-inch touchscreen.Volkswagen

Inside, the Tiguan now comes standard with heated seats, while a heated steering wheel and ventilated seats are available. Cloth upholstery is standard, while mid-range trims get leatherette. The top SEL R-Line comes with leather and a perforated leather-wrapped sport steering wheel. Front-wheel drive models come standard with three rows of seating as well, making the Tiguan one of the more family-friendly vehicles in its class.

2022 Volkswagen Tiguan The top trim gets upscale leather upholstery.Volkswagen

The base Tiguan S comes with a 6.5-inch touchscreen running Volkswagen's excellent MIB 2 software, but all others get MIB 3 infotainment software running on a glass-covered 8.0-inch touchscreen. The automaker notes that it's a capacitive touch system, which functions more like a smartphone than other infotainment systems, which sometimes require pressure to register a touch input. All Tiguans get a digital gauge cluster with an 8-inch display, while the top SEL R-Line upgrades to a 10.25-inch configurable gauge cluster that offers full-screen navigation and other views.

Pricing for the 2022 Volkswagen Tiguan starts at $25,995 for the base S trim with front-wheel drive. Adding all-wheel drive pushes the prices to $27,495. All Tiguan models will see a $1,195 destination charge tacked on at the bottom line.

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