Consumer Reports now rewards driver monitoring, but only Ford and GM pass muster

With more automakers including driver assistance systems in their cars, Consumer Reports is changing how it grades those vehicles. Starting this year, the outlet will add an additional two points to a car’s overall score if its included driver assistance system encourages safe driving. Moving forward, it will also deduct points from a vehicle’s total score if it finds the opposite is true, starting with two points in 2024 and then four points in 2026 and beyond.

“We believe it’s time to recognize vehicles that have found a safer way to deploy this technology,” said Jake Fisher, senior director of the publication’s Auto Test Center. By its own estimation, Consumer Reports says an adequate driver monitoring system is one that will “reliably” detect when the driver has become inattentive and alert them to that fact. It adds the system should escalate those warnings and eventually stop the car if it finds they’re not responding.

Consumer Reports said it would also take into account an automaker’s privacy policy when evaluating a driver monitoring system, and may not award additional points in some instances. The outlet reasons strong privacy protections are essential to convince drivers to use the feature.

The outlet will put the new ranking guidelines into action when reveals its 2022 Autos Top Picks on February 17th, but it gave an early preview of what to expect on Thursday, noting only cars from Ford and GM earned additional points for their driver assistance features. The outlet said BMW, Ford, GM, Tesla and Subaru all claim their systems can detect and prevent driver inattention, but notes it found some “serious flaws” in those systems through its testing.

Beyond mentioning the automaker, Consumer Reports didn’t call out Tesla specifically, but the two have an adversarial history. In 2020, Consumer Reports ranked Autopilot a “distant second” to GM’s Super Cruise. At the time, it said GM’s system was better at notifying drivers when it was about to disengage, and the automaker’s use of an infrared camera to monitor the driver led to a safer system overall.

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