The 3 Main Tests Consumer Reports Uses to Test Advanced Safety Systems (ADAS)

Consumer Reports’ extensive vehicle testing procedures provide valuable data for car buyers. The CR team drives each vehicle thousands of miles, gaining insight that shoppers can’t get from a single test drive. Additionally, cars undergo multiple performance tests at an outdoor facility.

Consumer Reports evaluates everything from a vehicle’s acceleration to the usability of its cupholders. Many tests, such as avoidance maneuvers, focus on safety. CR also uses three methods to evaluate a car’s advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS). Let’s go over each one.

1. Lane marking test

Consumer Reports tests ADAS
2023 Cadillac XT5 | Cadillac

According to Consumer Reports, the lane marking examination is one of the 50 tests performed on each vehicle. Most cars today are equipped with a lane departure warning system (LDW) or offer a few trim levels with the feature. 

LDW systems have a front-facing camera and make an audible or visual alert when the driver merges lanes (either intentionally or accidentally) without the turn signal. In some vehicles, the steering wheel vibrates when the system engages. 

Some LDW systems also include lane-keeping assist, which eases the car back inside the lines. The LDW system might also work in tandem with blind-spot monitors to prevent collisions with other vehicles or objects. Other LDW systems might have active lane centering, which aligns the car in the middle of highway markers.

To test the proficiency of each feature, Consumer Reports drives the car within fake lane markings on a portion of the straightaway driving course. This is also where CR determines each car’s acceleration and stopping distances. For the latter, testers calculate braking distances on wet and dry pavement.

2. Foam car test

Automatic emergency braking (AEB) and forward-collision warning (FCW) are two of the most common ADAS features on modern cars. Both use cameras, radars, or lasers to scan the road. 

FCW is the more passive of the two, giving audible or tactile warnings whenever the system detects an obstacle in front of the vehicle. The names for this ADAS vary among automakers. For example, Toyota calls its FCW a “pre-collision system,” while others might use “forward-collision mitigation.”

AEB automatically employs the brakes if the system detects an imminent collision. Some cars also have reverse AEB, possibly built on top of the system’s rear cross-traffic alert system (RCTA). RCTA might also be a part of a car’s FCW system, but it typically activates only when the vehicle reverses.

To test AEB and FCW, Consumer Reports simulates a collision by driving toward a foam car at 20 mph. Testers note the time it takes for the systems to activate and the alerts’ volume/vibration levels.

3. Pedestrian safety test


Consumer Reports Tests Cars on a Former Drag Strip

A car’s pedestrian warning system typically uses multiple cameras and radar to detect human movement around the vehicle. Depending on the system, it will either warn the driver about a pedestrian in front of the car or automatically engage the brakes. However, none of these systems automatically steer the vehicle away from pedestrians.

Pedestrian detection usually activates at low speeds up to 25 mph. Some cars, including all Volvo models, also have cyclist detection technology. Consumer Reports tests pedestrian detection systems by driving toward a foam dummy at 20 mph.

Remember that no ADAS feature can prevent all collisions. You should also read the vehicle owner’s manual to learn about each system’s full capabilities and settings. If you want to know how they work in real-life scenarios without testing them yourself, Consumer Reports is an excellent place to start.