Over the course of 10 months, nearly 400 car crashes in the United States with advanced driver-assistance technologies, the federal government’s top auto-safety regulator revealed Wednesday, its first-ever release of large-scale data about these burgeoning systems.
In 392 incidents cataloged by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration from July 1 last year through May 15, six people died and five were seriously injured. Teslas operating with Autopilot, the more ambitious Full Self Driving mode or any of their associated component features had 273 crashes.
The disclosures are part of a sweeping effort by the federal agency to determine the safety of advanced driving systems as they become increasingly commonplace. Beyond the futuristic allure of self-driving cars, scores of car manufacturers have rolled out automated components in recent years, including features that allow you to take your hands off the steering wheel under certain conditions and help you park parallel.
In Wednesday’s release, the NHTSA revealed that Honda vehicles were involved in 90 incidents and subarus in 10. Ford Motor, General Motors, BMW, Volkswagen, Toyota, Hyundai and Porsche each reported five or fewer.
“These technologies hold great promise to improve safety, but we need to understand how these vehicles are operating in real-world situations,” said Steven Cliff, the agency’s administrator. “This will help our investigators quickly identify potential defect trends that will emerge.”
Speaking with reporters ahead of Wednesday’s release, Cliff also cautioned against drawing conclusions from the data collected so far, noting that it does not take into account factors like the number of cars from each manufacturer that are on the road and equipped with these types of technologies.
“The data may raise more questions than they answer,” he said.
About 830,000 Tesla cars in the United States are equipped with Autopilot or other driver-assistance technologies of the company – offering an explanation as to why Tesla vehicles accounted for approximately 70 percent of the reported crashes.
Ford, GM, BMW and others have similar advanced systems that allow hands-free driving under certain conditions on highways, but far fewer of those models have been sold. These companies, however, have sold hundreds of millions of cars over the last two decades that are equipped with individual components of driver-assisted systems. The components include so-called lane keeping, which helps drivers stay in their lanes, and adaptive cruise control, which maintains a car’s speed and brakes when traffic slows down.
Dr. Cliff said the NHTSA would continue to collect data on these types of features and technologies, noting that the agency would use it as a guide in making any rules or requirements for how they should be designed and used.
The data was collected under an order NHTSA issued a year ago that required automakers to report that the car equipped with advanced driver-assisted systems, also known as ADAS or Level-2 automated driving systems.
The order was prompted by crashes and fatalities over the last six years that were associated with Teslas operating in Autopilot. Last week the NHTSA extended an investigation into whether Autopilot has technological and design flaws that pose safety risks. The agency has been looking into 35 crashes that occurred while Autopilot was active, including nine that resulted in the deaths of 14 people since 2014. It also opened a preliminary investigation into 16 incidents in which Tesoplas under Autopilot control crashed into emergency vehicles. stopped and had their lights flashing.
Under the order issued last year, NHTSA also collected data on crashes or incidents involving fully automated vehicles that are still in development for the most part but are being tested on public roads. The manufacturers of these vehicles include GM, Ford and other traditional automakers as well as tech companies such as Waymo, which is owned by Google’s parent company.
These types of vehicles were associated in 130 incidents, NHTSA found. One suffered a serious injury, 15 had minor or moderate injuries, and 108 did not result in injuries. Many of the crashes involving automated vehicles led to fender benders or bumper taps because they operated primarily at low speeds and in city driving.
Waymo, which is running a fleet of driverless taxis in Arizona, was part of 62 incidents. GM’s Cruise division, which has just started offering driverless taxi rides in San Francisco, was involved in an automated test vehicle made by Pony.ai, a start-up, resulting in a recall of three of the company’s tests. vehicles to correct software.
NHTSA’s order was an unusually bold step for the regulator, which has come under fire in recent years for not being more assertive with automakers.
“The agency is gathering information in order to determine whether, in the field, these systems constitute an unreasonable risk to safety,” said J. Christian Gerdes, a professor of mechanical engineering and a director of Stanford University’s Center for Automotive Research.
An advanced driver-assistance system can steer, brake and accelerate vehicles on its own, though drivers must be alert and ready to take control of the vehicle at any time.
Safety experts are concerned because these systems allow drivers to relinquish active control of the car and could lull them into thinking their cars are driving themselves. When the technology malfunctions or can’t handle a particular situation, drivers may be unprepared to take control quickly.
NHTSA’s order requires companies to provide data on crashes when advanced driver-assisted systems and automated technologies were used within 30 seconds of impact. Although this data provides a broader picture of the behavior of these systems than ever before, it is still difficult to determine if they reduce crashes or otherwise improve safety.
The agency is not collecting data that will allow researchers to easily determine whether these systems are safer than turning them into similar situations.
“The question: What is the baseline against which we are comparing this data?” said Dr. Gerdes, a Stanford professor, who was the first chief innovation officer for the Department of Transportation from 2016 to 2017, of which the NHTSA is part.
But some experts say that human trafficking with these systems should not be the goal.
“When a Boeing 737 falls out of the sky, we don’t ask, ‘Is it falling out of the sky more or less than other planes?'” Said Bryant Walker Smith, an associate professor at the University of South Carolina’s Law and Engineering schools who specialize in emerging transportation technologies.
“Crashes on our roads are the equivalent of several plane crashes every week,” he added. “Comparison is not necessarily what we want. If there are crashes these driving systems are contributing to – crashes that otherwise would not have happened – that is a potentially fixable problem that we need to know about. “