Maximizing cruise control for safety and Consumer Reports

Discussion in 'Prime Main Forum (2017-Current)' started by Primefan, Aug 3, 2021.

  1. Primefan

    Primefan Junior Member

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    First time to create a thread! And it’s a long one! Thanks for all the information I’ve learned here. Hope this doesn’t bore everyone to tears.

    I want to float some ideas and see what others think. I realize it’s unlikely but maybe Toyota would consider safety options they seem to have passed over which other manufacturers are taking advantage of.

    I suspect most of us could agree that Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) is an incredibly valuable safety feature. The first time I drove a vehicle with the ability to automatically maintain a safe distance from the vehicle it is following I immediately wanted my family members to have cars with this technology (and autonomous braking). Protected a family member once already in a critical accident.

    With few exceptions I think the more time the ACC is on the safer everyone on the road is. Toyota should want to make it as easy as possible to use. (Of course many of you are such vigilant drivers ACC and lane centering has not made you a safer driver - but you should still want ACC and lane centering to do all it can to keep you safe from other drivers.)

    ACC with Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 (TSS) is reasonably capable (available on the 2021+ Prius and Prius Prime with even better 2.5 systems on other newer Toyota models - comments here are specific to the Prius Prime). When Consumer Reports tested the ACC systems in 18 vehicles Toyota’s 6 out of 10 score for ACC was just one point behind Tesla’s Autopilot. Only four vehicles scored an 8 or higher (Audi, Cadillac, Mercedes-Benz, and Porsche).

    Toyota’s “lane centering function” (LCF) and other lane keeping technology did not fare as well in Consumer Reports tests (a 5 out of 10 and well behind Tesla’s 9). Nonetheless while the “lane centering function” feels initially awkward it too is a remarkable technology assist. And it only works when ACC is on. This further strengthens the need to maximize ACC if needed wants to maximize safety. (See unsafe hands off driving demo of lane centering here:
    )

    However, for “Ease of Use” of the 2.0 safety systems Toyota got the worst score of all 18 Consumer Reports ranked systems. There is a lot Toyota could do to address this.

    One easy thing drivers can do is to leave the “Driving assist system information” displayed in the “Multi-information display”. This optional screen monitors ACC and LCF functions.

    Drivers can also turn on the ACC system as soon after start up as appropriate (the system will default to 19 mph for a neighborhood speed). I’m trying to teach my daughter to use her hand on the cruise lever, rather than foot on the accelerator, as much as possible. If you are willing to be a bit slow off the light or stop sign it is possible to drive the Prime without much use of the accelerator and keeping ACC and LCF nearly always active (although the annoyances referenced below come into play).

    As a result I’m particularly interested in an idea I think Toyota could implement through software. Consumer Reports ignored Toyota’s TSS 2.0 ability to read speed limit signs. Drivers of TSS 2.0 and 2.5 vehicles generally have a pretty accurate speed limit sign icon next to the vehicle’s speed on their dash. What I’m asking Toyota for is a way to immediately set the cruise control at the speed TSS is showing on the dash (seen here:
    ).

    I’d like Toyota to take the pull forward on the cruise lever action and make it set the cruise at the speed of the sign in the icon on the dash. This is even more helpful in the US because trying to change the ACC speed by holding up or down the lever only adjust the ACC in 1 mile per hour increments - unlike in Canada where sustained pressure adjusts in 5 mile per hour increments. (Toyota already has three ways to disengage cruise control. 1) If you tap on the brakes, 2) pull forward on the cruise control lever, or 3) click the button at the end of the lever. This proposal causes the loss of one of the three ways to disengage the ACC but tapping on the brake is the obvious solution here.)

    This may seem trivial. And on a highway I would mostly agree. But as soon as one begins to turn onto smaller roads I think most people simply abandon the safety of ACC and lane keeping. For example: I turn off a 65 mph highway to a stoplight at the end of the ramp. At the stoplight I turn onto a 45 mph roadway. Significant intersections often have nearby speed limit signs. TSS sees the 45 mph sign and shows it on my dash. It’s a no brainer that, while I may have a few minutes or miles of navigating slower congestion at the intersection, I want to set my ACC for 45mph. ACC will manage the slower speed congestion while keeping distance from the vehicle in front. Lane keeping will help similarly help if I have a moment of distraction.

    Under the currently implementation as I turn onto the 45 mph roadway I would either need to:
    A. Resume ACC at the 65 mph highway speed and be distracted while holding the lever down for 20 clicks until the speed shows 45. (This is perhaps the best of bad options as one can reset upon hitting 45. The problem is if the vehicle thinks it sees a moment of daylight it accelerates harder than would be preferred.)
    B. Click twice on the cruise lever button to turn on and off the ACC. Start the ACC at the preset 19mph. Then be distracted by holding the lever up 26 clicks to bring the speed to 45.
    C. Navigate through all the congestion without ACC or lane centering until one has the chance to hit 45 mph and set the ACC then.

    All three of these are annoying and diminish safety rather than enhancing it.

    If Toyota allows the driver to glance at the speed limit sign icon on the dash and a pull back on the ACC lever to set the ACC at that speed this seems to be a clear win for safety.

    Other than the technical details of this implementation am I missing something? Would this be as helpful for others as it would be for me? Obviously no one would be obligated to use it.

    Some additional comments:

    - Other car manufacturers have offered drivers a much more aggressive option to fully integrate the drivers ACC and ability to read street signs. If selected the vehicle automatically maintains the speed limit the car reads. There are a number of complaints however about reading unintended signs, etc. It seems Toyota could choose to offer this as well with a software update but, based on reading reviews of other vehicles, it’s not what I’m asking for. (Here is how Mercedes-Benz does the more aggressive implementation:
    .)

    - Toyota could help every TSS 2.0 Prius Prime driver by allowing drivers to use “Split screen” without turning off Road Sign Assist - that’s crazy. The road sign icons still show up in the “Multi-information display” if the “Driving assist system information” is displayed. This should be a simple software fix.

    - A future hardware fix for ease of use includes putting cruise control buttons on the steering wheel (does anyone use the buttons on the wheel to flip through the dash menus while driving?). This and/or putting the cruise lever in a fixed place rather than having it spin with the wheel. Note in the “hands free” video above that this was implemented in the RAV4.

    Whew. Guess I’ve been thinking about this a bit. Anyone else trying to maximize use of these technologies?
     
    #1 Primefan, Aug 3, 2021
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2021
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  2. fuzzy1

    fuzzy1 Senior Member

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    :eek:

    I believe you are letting your expectations get ahead of the current technical reality. As are very many other drivers.
     
  3. Primefan

    Primefan Junior Member

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    Please see the Mercedes-Benz video I’ve added above. I suspect Toyota lacks nothing but a software upgrade to connect the existing systems and replicate this implementation. Nonetheless I’m asking for something less technically difficult than what Mercedes-Benz has already done.
     
  4. fuzzy1

    fuzzy1 Senior Member

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    Please listen to the disclaimers that start at 1:50.

    These are still all SAE Level 2 systems. I don't think you should be pushing your daughter to that other control method until she is in a Level 4 car.
     
  5. Leadfoot J. McCoalroller

    Leadfoot J. McCoalroller Senior Member

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    Yeah I'm with fuzzy on this one.

    I'm a big fan of auto cruise control myself, and I make extensive use of it in vehicles that are so equipped.

    On the other hand I believe there is something akin to the "uncanny valley" when it comes to drive automation technology, and we should be cognizant of which side we're on. You might say I think that SAE levels 3 and 4 must never be allowed in public, and you'd be right.

    I particularly like radar cruisers because humans are kind of crappy at noticing changes in closure rates at highway-speed-appropriate following distances, and I'm a human.

    On the other hand it's a cinch for radars and camera systems, so I really appreciate having a layer of automation there. It's letting me do a difficult thing better and more reliably.

    I tend to agree that there's room for improvement in the control mechanism for setting the target speed on a cruise control, but I don't like the idea of a system that reads speed limit signs and alters the setpoint based only on that data.

    I might warm up to it if the system also considers hyperlocal weather, day/night lighting status, a prediction of human visibility, road surface quality, tire condition, temporary speed limits, construction and shoulder activity with or without temporary signage, current human driver fatigue level, traffic density and probably a couple of other factors as well.

    Even bad human drivers do a lot of that well without realizing it, and those are all things that don't exist at all in current-generation sign readers and radar cruisers.

    We've come a long way in useful driver assistance technology, but I think there's still a very long way to go.
     
  6. PtPri

    PtPri Junior Member

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    I'm a strong supporter of driving aids - but your wording is a bit scary. In a densely congested area, unless cars "talk" to each other, I would feel extremely unease at ceding controls to a car, rather than to myself. We are the drivers.
    Also, I think that allowing recent drivers to only operate on heavily assisted cars is bad for their knowledge and skills, as one should always be a competent driver before allowing the driving aids to come - and the proven complacency that it carries with.


    That being said, some of your points are extremely valid, but Toyota (et al) needs to work on their systems. Automatic speed reduction in case of a miss-read signal, for example, could well be a recipe for a massive crash on a congested highway.

    I think that companies tend to spend as little as possible on these things, and make them still very cumbersome and fixed - they should be easily updatable, both software And hardware wise.

    Look at what OpenPilot is showing being able to do, for example, and think on what the world's most selling brand could (and should) be offering its clients!
     
  7. Salamander_King

    Salamander_King Senior Member

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    I find the Dynamic Radar Cruise Control (DRCC) useful for my rare long highway driving but never use it on my daily short in-town drives or in congested traffic. Even though DRCC is included in the TSS 2.0, I consider it to be more of a convenience feature than a safety feature, unlike the Pre-Collision System (PCS). Except for the PCS and occasional DRCC on the highway, I keep all other TSS2.0 features turned off. That's Lane Departure Alert (LDA), Automatic High Beam (AHB), Road Sign Assist (RSA), and Lane Tracing Assist (LTA) all being off on my PP. The paternalistic drivers assisting technologies can be just annoyance rather than being safety features.

    All of my kids are grown up and have their own cars now. But if I have to teach my kids how to drive now on today's cars, I still would like them to learn how to drive safely without depending on the new technologies. I know it would be very difficult to teach a kid today how to pay attention to the road and surroundings without checking on the LCD monitor and swiping the touch screen, but hands on the wheel, eyes on the road ahead is still the basic safety skills they need to learn first. That's my two cents.
     
    #7 Salamander_King, Aug 4, 2021
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2021
  8. PiPLosAngeles

    PiPLosAngeles Senior Member

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    I've noticed my Prime nudging the wheel when it thinks I'm drifting even when not using cruise control and without the warning beeps of lane departure assist.
     
  9. Leadfoot J. McCoalroller

    Leadfoot J. McCoalroller Senior Member

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    A lot to unpack right there.

    Consider that the extreme difficulty of hardware upgrades in many popular cars has historically been used as an inducement to get the owners to trade up to the latest model. If their future car sales are going to be cannibalized by the replacement of updated modules, the automaker may need to put a real premium price on the updated module relative to its actual bill of materials and intellectual property.

    I've recently read that Tesla has moved their goalposts, and that their top-of-the-line driver assistance package- the one with the unprintable name- will be licensed by a monthly subscription going forward.

    Automatic software updates could have disastrous results if the driver is insufficiently aware of the behavior changes enabled or disabled by the update.

    There's the case of automakers using software updates to limit or remove features to factor in, and the special situation that arises when several individual changes are combined into a single release.

    And what happens if the owner simply doesn't like the new software and wants to revert?

    I'm not picking a favorite system here, just pointing out that once you switch from a "locked down" finished car that doesn't allow for any updates at all into the new world, all of these methods add significant complications for the owner to manage.
     
    #9 Leadfoot J. McCoalroller, Aug 4, 2021
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2021
  10. Primefan

    Primefan Junior Member

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    At first glance this makes sense to me. But at second glance I disagree.

    First, one is never “ceding” control. The driver remains fulling in control of the technological assistance. A quick tap on the brake and the assists go away.

    Second, I suspect that those who have driven a vehicle with “full range” ACC in stop and go traffic on a highway recognize this is a time when the technology shines. A full range ACC can cause a vehicle to come to a complete stop in congested traffic at an appropriate distance behind the vehicle in front, stay there, and then return to the prior ACC speed setting with only a quick tap of the accelerator or a “resume” nudge on the ACC lever (and while maintaining safe distancing throughout!). A split second distraction that would have otherwise have resulted in rear ending someone at low speed is removed (autonomous braking would likely have avoided it too but why test it?).

    So if the ACC is valuable in stop and go traffic on the highway I think it is just as valuable in stop and go traffic off the highway (as long as you are continuing in a mostly straight path).

    I’ve been driving without these assists for nearly 40 years. It’s not easy to retrain myself to learn to drive in a way that keeps the ACC and LCF on as much as is reasonably possible. But that doesn’t means it’s not a safer way to drive. I think it is. It demands no less vigilance but offers an extra layer of safety for a distracted moment. (I suppose one can argue that using the ACC is itself a distraction - my requests to Toyota above is an attempt to diminish this.)

    My daughter, with a learners permit, definitely needs to know the feel of the brakes, accelerator, and steering for lane centering. It makes sense to spend some time driving the vehicle with the assists off. But if she can learn to reflexively keep these assists on as much as is reasonably possible I think she, and the drivers around her, will be slightly safer.

    As for implementation Leadfoot is right that one would never want Toyota to simply change through an update what a pull on a lever does. Toyota would need to require a driver to opt in through a menu screen option. And the risks are such that Toyota likely won’t make any changes. Missed opportunity that can be addressed in future vehicles.
     
    #10 Primefan, Aug 4, 2021
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2021
  11. fuzzy1

    fuzzy1 Senior Member

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    But I see your earlier statement being in conflict here:
    I.e. you were trying to teach her to use the assist system as the primary control, not as a background assist system. This can too easily lead drivers into mishandling the many scenarios that the assist systems are not yet adequately capable or reliable enough to handle themselves, such as called out in that MB video list of disclaimers.

    If your offspring will be driving now, not waiting until Level 4 systems become available (whenever that might be), they need to know more than just the feel of the brakes, accelerator, and steering. They needs to gain full competence with all of them. I'm not suggesting that the assists be turned off, but rather that they must not be allowed to become a crutch, or a go-to primary control method.

    It is too easy to allow complacency to creep in. It is even worse when it is trained in. Images such as this, with all hands off the wheel and eyes off the road, are helping push people's expectations ahead of the current technical reality:
    upload_2021-8-4_10-59-54.png
     
  12. Leadfoot J. McCoalroller

    Leadfoot J. McCoalroller Senior Member

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    ^ point bears repeating.

    That guy basically posted the worst "ghostride the whip" video ever.

    I have no problem with people doing dumb stunts in their cars far away from me, but his is not a good example to be cited in the context of driver aid safety features.
     
  13. Primefan

    Primefan Junior Member

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    I agree with you about everything in this statement except “[not be a] primary control method.” For me the question is always “what will keep me and other drivers safest?” If that means directly manipulating the brake and accelerator so be it. However, having the ACC and LCF appropriately engaged provides an extra level of safety for everyone on the road (as long as you don’t spend excess time trying to set the speed control or become less vigilant as a result of the assists).

    So, having gained full competence and fully vigilant, if my daughter can drive using the ACC and cruise control lever to control acceleration and deceleration as much as is reasonably possible, thus leaving the ACC and LCF safety assists engaged, I think everyone is safer.

    I’m working to retrain myself to drive this way. A flip up on the ACC lever to resume moving forward is generally no more difficult than stepping on the accelerator. The former turns on the safety assists. The latter doesn’t. And holding slightly less tightly to the steering wheel so the LCF can keep me at a maximum distance from vehicles in the other lanes feels weird when the wheel automatically corrects - but it too is no more difficult. I just have to slowly untrain some of what I’ve done for 40 years so everyone is safer (while continuing to monitor for someone creeping into my lane because they don’t have LCF).

    This does not require anything other than the technology already in our car. All the better if it was improved in the ways I suggested in the first post. I want the ACC controls already on the steering wheel like in the RAV4 (or, better, a fixed lever) and a less aggressive implementation of the Mercedes speed limit assist which would offer one click ACC speed setting based on the street sign icon on my dash.

    And yes, showing the Toyotajeff hands off video above muddied the waters (while illustrating what LCF can do). I won’t be showing that video to my daughter. : )
     
    #13 Primefan, Aug 4, 2021
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2021
  14. DukeofPrime

    DukeofPrime Junior Member

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    I'm sorry, Primefan, but I think you're insane. Teaching your daughter and yourself to rely on these automated systems is dangerous. See the plane crash at SFO a few years ago (Asiana Airlines Flight 214 - Wikipedia) where they believe the pilots' got confused and crashed because one of the plane's guidance systems was broken and no one had much practice flying without it. Snow, heavy rain, road construction, poorly maintained roads, etc. can all confuse your car's guidance systems. Sensors can fail and/or provide bad readings. Putting such an emphasis on them (as in, drive with the stalk over the pedals) can easily turn them into a crutch where your driving senses and coordination atrophy and then, like the pilots above, you get into trouble if something goes wrong. Also see the Tesla "automatic driving" crashes.

    I do use ACC. It works OK in stop and go traffic and trips on crowded highways, but I also find myself at times braking and accelerating myself (the old fashion way) because sometimes the ACC brakes too hard (I can see the brake lights far ahead, it doesn't) and accelerates too fast (like when the slow car in front of you changes lanes and now it floors it because it's 20 mph under the setpoint). It's a backup, and should stay as a backup.

    And while we're talking about ACC, I'm glad that Toyota didn't take away the ability to use "old fashion" cruise control because sometimes the ACC makes it seem like I'm fighting the car to go straight. In my experience, ACC works much better following a vehicle vs navigating the open road. Maybe the steering pull I'm feeling is how it senses that you have your hands on the steering wheel. Maybe the lines are too faint so it is actually wandering. Is it really that hard to drive between the lines?.
     
  15. PtPri

    PtPri Junior Member

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    The systems will work, but are nowhere near the point where one can rely on them primarily for controlling the car. Especially if you're someone with limited experience.
    I think your daughter (someday will be my daughter) would be better off if she also learnt how to drive a classic car, with wobbly steering and poor brakes, as that demands serious focus and lets one devolp awareness of driving.

    I totally agree with you when you say it is an added layer of security... But a small layer nonetheless.

    And trust that I don't go against your wishes, as I even plan on setting up openpilot... But for me, as I know I will try to stay alert.

    ... And we know we tend to relax as we get confortable with something, right?
    I know I speak for myself. That's why I love the added layer of security.
    But I don't feel it's more than that at this point (I'm driving a 2016 gen4, maybe later cars are much better?)
     
  16. Primefan

    Primefan Junior Member

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    I don’t want her or I to “rely”. But neither do I want to be less safe than Toyota permits the vehicle to be.

    Apparently you see the advantage of ACC too. It could lead to atrophy. One shouldn’t lose vigilance. But what it certainly does is keep me consistently farther away from the car in front of me than I naturally would be (I leave it at the maximum distance setting). I suspect I’m not alone.

    Unless there is a major failure like you’ve described it makes me a safer driver. And these systems wouldn’t exist if they were failing frequently.

    DukeofPrime I think your final paragraph is about the LCF (or LTA) not the ACC.

    As for the LCF when I first experienced it I didn’t like it automatically adjusting the steering wheel. Felt bizarre. But once I understood what it did, learned to use it in the right conditions, and stopped fighting it I came to appreciate the assist. I still tug on the wheel regularly to override it based on road situations it can’t understand. I don’t rely on it to do things it wasn’t designed to do.

    Among other things the ACC and LCF accomplish somewhat the same thing. They both position the vehicle at distances from other vehicles to give drivers maximum time to react (in the case of LCF also distance from the roadside).

    As I understand it the TSS 2.0 system on the 2021 Prime was a leap forward from the prior TSS 1.0. I’d be really interested in driving a further enhanced TSS 2.5. It’s already impressive. I’m becoming a safer driver. (And my insurance company apparently knows this as my premium didn’t budge despite doubling the value of my car).

    p.s. Here is the video I have shown my daughter and should have included instead of the hands off one. I’ve used “LCF” above to focus on lane centering but probably should have just used “LTA” as Toyota does here:


    p.p.s. Consumer Reports found ACC on Openpilot significantly worse than TSS 2.0. That said Comma just introduced hardware that doubles the price (over $2000) and presumably addresses such shortcomimgs.
     
    #16 Primefan, Aug 4, 2021
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2021
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