Autonomous driving and driver assistance technology linked to hundreds of car accidents

The top car safety regulator in the federal government revealed, Wednesday, in its first release of extensive data on these thriving systems, in 10 months, nearly 400 car accidents in the United States included advanced driver assistance technologies.

In 392 accidents cataloged by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration from July 1 last year through May 15, six people were killed and five seriously injured. Teslas has been working with autopilot, the more ambitious full autonomous driving mode or any of its associated component features in 273 accidents. Five of those Tesla accidents were fatal.

The detections are part of a sweeping effort by the federal agency to determine the safety of advanced driving systems as they are becoming increasingly common. In addition to the futuristic appeal of self-driving cars, dozens of car manufacturers have rolled out automated components in recent years, including features that allow you to take your hands off the wheel under certain conditions and that help you stand parallel.

“These technologies hold great promise for improving safety, but we need to understand how these vehicles perform in real-world situations,” said agency director Stephen Cliff. “This will help our investigators quickly identify potential fault trends that are emerging.”

Speaking with reporters prior to his release on Wednesday, Dr. Cliff also cautioned against drawing conclusions from the data collected so far, noting that it does not take into account factors such as the number of cars from each factory on the road that are equipped with these types. of techniques.

“The data may raise more questions than they answer,” he said.

About 830,000 Tesla cars in the US are equipped with the company’s autopilot or other driver assistance technologies — providing one explanation for why Tesla cars accounted for nearly 70 percent of reported crashes.

Ford Motor, General Motors, BMW and others have similar advanced systems that allow hands-free driving under certain highway conditions, but far fewer of these models have been sold. However, these companies have sold millions of cars over the past two decades that are equipped with individual components for driver assistance systems. Components include so-called lane-keeping, which helps drivers stay in their lanes, and adaptive cruise control, which automatically maintains vehicle speed and brakes when traffic ahead slows.

Dr. Cliff said the NHTSA will continue to collect data about incidents involving these types of features and technologies, noting that the agency will use them as a guide in establishing any rules or requirements for how they are designed and used.

The data includes vehicles with advanced systems designed to operate with little or no driver intervention, and separate data from systems that can simultaneously direct and control the vehicle’s speed but require constant attention from the driver.

The data showed that in 11 accidents, a car with one of these technologies was traveling in a straight line and collided with another vehicle that was changing lanes.

fully automated vehicles – which are still mostly in development but being tested on public roads — they have been implicated in 130 accidents, the NHTSA has found. One resulted in serious injury, 15 minor or moderate injuries, and 108 injuries resulting in no injuries. Many accidents involving motorized vehicles have led to flexing of the fenders or fenders because they operate primarily at low speeds and in city driving.

In more than a third of advanced systems accidents, a vehicle has stopped and collided with another vehicle.

Most incidents involving advanced systems have occurred in San Francisco or the Bay Area, where companies such as Waymo, Argo AI and Cruise are testing and improving the technology.

Waymo, which is owned by parent Google and operates a fleet of self-driving taxis in Arizona, was part of 62 accidents. Cruise, a division of General Motors, has 23. Cruise just started offering driverless taxi rides in San Francisco, and this month got permission from California authorities to start charging customers for driverless rides.

None of the cars using the most advanced systems have been involved in fatal accidents, and only one accident resulted in serious injury. In March, a motorcyclist hit a vehicle managed by Cruz from behind while the two were traveling down a ramp on a San Francisco street.

The data was collected under an order issued by the NHTSA a year ago that requires auto manufacturers to report accidents in cars equipped with advanced driver assistance systems, also known as ADAS or Level 2 automated driving systems.

The order was issued in part due to crashes and fatalities over the past six years that have involved Teslas operating on autopilot. last week NHTSA Expanded Investigation To see if the autopilot has technological and design flaws that pose safety risks. The agency was looking at 35 accidents that occurred while the autopilot was on, including nine that killed 14 people since 2014. It also opened a preliminary investigation into 16 accidents in which Teslas under autopilot control crashed into emergency vehicles that stopped and turned on their lights.

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NHTSA’s order was an unusually bold move for the regulator, which has been criticized in recent years for not being more assertive with automakers.

“The agency is collecting information in order to determine whether, in the field, these systems pose an unreasonable safety risk,” said J. Christian Gerdes, professor of mechanical engineering and director of the Center for Automotive Research at Stanford University.

An advanced driver assistance system can steer, brake and accelerate vehicles on their own, although drivers must remain alert and ready to take control of the vehicle at any time.

some independent studies They’ve discovered these technologies, but haven’t yet shown whether they reduce crashes or otherwise improve safety.

In November, Tesla recalled nearly 12,000 vehicles that were part of beta testing for fully autonomous driving — a version of autopilot designed for use on city streets — after publishing a software update that the company said could cause crashes due to unexpected activation of the cars’ braking system. In emergency cases.

The NHTSA request required companies to provide data on accidents when advanced driver assistance systems and automated technologies were in use within 30 seconds of an impact. Although this data provides a broader picture of the behavior of these systems than ever before, it is still difficult to determine whether they reduce accidents or otherwise improve safety.

The agency has not collected data that would allow researchers to determine whether it is safer to use these systems than to turn them off in the same situations. Automakers were allowed to revise descriptions of what happened during accidents, an option that Tesla, Ford and others have used routinely, making the data difficult to interpret.

“Question: What is the baseline against which we compare this data?” Gerdis, a professor at Stanford University who from 2016 to 2017 was the first chief innovation officer for the Department of Transportation, of which the NHTSA is a part.

But some experts say comparing these systems to human leadership should not be the goal.

“When a Boeing 737 falls from the sky, we don’t ask, ‘Does it fall more or less from the sky than other planes?'” said Bryant Walker Smith, associate professor of law at the University of South Carolina. Engineering colleges specializing in emerging transportation technologies.

“Accidents on our roads are equivalent to the number of plane accidents every week,” he added. Comparison is not necessarily what we want. If there are malfunctions that these drive systems contribute to – accidents that would not otherwise occur – this is a fixable problem that we need to know about.”

Jason KaoAnd the Asma Al Qurti Vivian Leigh contributed research and reporting.

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