Smoke and mirrors: are advanced vehicle safety systems falling short from their promises?


Martin Lavallière, Ph.D.

Author's bio

Martin Lavallière, Ph.D. is a professor of kinesiology at the Department of health sciences at Université du Québec à Chicoutimi (UQAC) since August 2016. He received his B.Sc. (2005), M.Sc. (2007), and Ph.D. (2013) in kinesiology from Université Laval (Québec, Canada). He completed a postdoctoral fellow at the MIT AgeLab (2013-15) where he evaluated the impact on driving performance of aging, navigation and communication technologies. He completed a second postdoctoral fellow at HEC Montréal (2015-16) working on the impact of work-related collisions. His research evaluates in-simulator-based training program combined with driving specific feedback to improve on-road driving behaviors in multiple clienteles (ex. Emergency respondents, traumatic brain injury, PTSD, etc.). He serves as a board member of the Quebec national board of research on road safety (RRSR), and different ISO committees regarding human-machine interface.

Let’s go back in Boston, May 2013. As I started a post doctoral position at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology AgeLab, automakers and researchers were announcing fully deployable autonomous vehicles for 2020. Less is to say that we are now in 2023 and that this date has been postponed multiple time since then to an eventual 2030-35.

But what have we missed in terms of setting deadlines or objectives? Were the technologies ready or was it the drivers that were not? Maybe both?

Like it happened years ago in the aviation industry, automation had seen numerous pros and cons with the improvement of safety and various regulations. And they still do. But the challenges in this industry differ greatly compared to rolling on the pavement with a lot of proximity with various sources of distractors and potential events that might interfere with one’s course or final destination. Moreover, the aviation industry has top performers piloting these planes who go through various courses, continuous health checks and working regulations. They have also seen with all these technologies, a plethora of training in high risk scenarios aiming to protect us when these automations fail.

On the drivers’ vehicle side, what have we done in terms of training with these technologies in comparison with pilots? None! We have access to driving when we turn about 16 years old and that’s it. It is one of the few domains you’ll face in your life where you won’t have to do continuing education as we would do for our jobs or even in the sports you practice.

Furthermore, cars are sold without precisely specifying their strengths and especially their weaknesses [1]. We are promised technologies and safety to accompany our shiny cars while failing to present to us with the limitations of the on-board technologies they contain and many who buy cars equipped with active safety systems learn how they work by trial and error, instead of consulting the vehicle documentation [2]. By trial and error, is not the way we should be learning how to react to an emergency situation! It's not a video game, it's a car that you drive!!! On a positive note, participants did recognize the importance of learning how to use advanced vehicles safety system (AVSS) [3] correctly, showing that there is a demand for effective and engaging driver training. Unfortunately, such programs are currently not available for wide-spread distribution across car dealerships. There is still a lot to be discovered and documented on how and when people will use these advanced vehicles safety system while driving [4] and also about the challenges we will be facing along the way [5].

This is what we, at the Canadian Association of Road Safety Professionals (CARSP), aim to accomplish along this journey of technologies development and adoption for a full deployment and adoption of AVSS and autonomous vehicles.  We aim to better educate people and drivers on to how these technologies work, and when they do not work, so that they are used appropriately and within their specifications. We are making this knowledge accessible to the public, through CARSP’s website, from coast to coast, and in English and en Français. Furthermore, this resource is available free of charge (https://carsp.ca/en/news-and-resources/advanced-vehicle-safety-systems/).


  1. Abraham H, McAnulty H, Mehler B, Reimer B. Case Study of Today's Automotive Dealerships: Introduction and Delivery of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems. Transp Res Rec. 2017;2660[]
  2. Nandavar S, Kaye S-A, Senserrick T, Oviedo-Trespalacios O. Exploring the Factors Influencing Acquisition and Learning Experiences of Cars Fitted with Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS). Transportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour. 2023;94:341-52.[]
  3. AVSS are also referred as Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS).[]
  4. Furlan A, Kajaks T, Tiong M, Lavallière M, Campos J, Babineau J, et al. Advanced Vehicle Technologies and Road Safety: A Scoping Review of Evidence. Accid Anal Prev. 2020;147:1-13.[]
  5. Hancock PA, Kajaks T, Caird JK, Chignell M, Mizobuchi S, Burns PC, et al. Challenges to Human Drivers in Increasingly Automated Vehicles. Human Factors. 2020;62(2):310-28.[]