As recently as late 2020, DEKRA commissioned the market research and opinion polling company forsa to conduct a representative survey of around 2,000 randomly selected German motorists across all age groups on the topic of driver assistance systems. In the 65+ age group, 81 percent of men and 70 percent of women surveyed thought that the concept of assistance systems to aid drivers was either good or very good. By their own accounts, around 80 percent of the men in this age group and more than 60 percent of the women own vehicles that are equipped with assistance systems.
The usage of driver assistance systems differed significantly depending on the age and gender of those surveyed: older women aged 65 and over had less knowledge and experience of the systems listed in the survey than the average of all the motorists surveyed. By some distance, the system used most commonly by men and women aged 65 and over was the parking assistant (73 and 55 percent respectively), followed by high-beam/light assistant (42 and 29 percent), adaptive cruise con-trol (37 and 19 percent) and lane departure warning system (33 and 17 percent). Overall, however, these usage levels were much lower than those for the 18 to 44 and 45 to 64 age groups. The greatest difference was in the usage of blind spot warning and lane change assistant systems. In the 18 to 24 age group, 48 percent of those surveyed said that they had used such a system before, while only 22 percent of senior citizens made the same claim. The difference was less pronounced among the women included in the survey, though only 22 percent of the women in the younger age group had used this system, compared to 14 percent of older women.
The drivers were also asked which driver assistance systems they would consider an absolute must in their next car purchase, if money were no object. Among men and women aged 65 and over, the parking assistant once again topped this list (87 and 84 respectively), followed by adaptive cruise control (74 and 59), blind spot warning system/lane change assistant (72 and 75 percent), advance automated emergency braking system (71 and 60 percent), and lane departure warning system (60 and 46 percent).
The operation of the assistance systems and the way they are activated and deactivated varies depending on the vehicle model. Across every age group, 83 percent of those surveyed agreed that it was necessary and sensible to make sure that the way these systems are operated is as uniform and standardized as possible in all cars – just like the turn signal controls. This opinion was shared by 89 percent of the 65-and-over age group included in the survey, and 95 percent of those aged 75 and over.
The aim of the survey was not to establish the status quo for driver assistance systems in the German market, but rather to discover how much drivers knew about how assistance systems work and find out their wishes and expectations with regard to driver assistance. In this respect, the results of the survey clearly show that many people know nothing about assistance systems, and do not know what the names of the systems mean or which systems are actually installed in their own vehicles. Around 30 percent of those surveyed said that they did not have any assistance systems in their vehicles at all. It is difficult to reconcile this result with the information provided on the ages of the vehicles or even with general records of the cars registered on German roads. On the other hand, around ten percent of those surveyed said that they had experience of using exit warning systems and night vision assistants – systems that are currently only available in a very small number of vehicles. Overall, however, every age group thought that driver assistance systems of-fer great potential, and the drivers surveyed displayed a positive attitude toward considering such systems when buying their next vehicle.
In addition to the DEKRA survey conducted by forsa, there are also a number of other surveys and studies on this topic that have produced insightful results. For example, in its 2019 publication “Experiences of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems amongst Older Drivers,” the National Centre for Social Research in London also came to the conclusion that senior citizens are gener-ally open to the idea of driver assistance systems, but want them to be user-friendly and not too distracting. Senior citizens with multiple health limitations demonstrate greater levels of acceptance than those in full health. Furthermore, older drivers were of the opinion that the focus should be on systems that provide information acoustically rather than visually. At the same time, however, there was a fear of becoming “dependent” on an assistance system.
The results of an online survey of 1,328 persons aged 65 to 95, which were presented in September 2019 at the 11th International Conference on Automotive User Interfaces and Interactive Vehicular Applications in Utrecht, also showed that there is good acceptance of driver assistance systems overall. However, acceptance levels for systems that actually intervene in the driving process were lower than for those that simply provide information. In this respect, it is notable that persons with a lower locus of control regarding the use of technology (in psychology, the locus of control is a person’s subjective perception as to whether their behavior in certain situations is under their own control or affected by external forces) tended to prefer automatically intervening systems, as informational systems represented an additional stress factor or distraction to them.