The largest auto safety regulator in the federal government revealed Wednesday that nearly 400 accidents in the United States in 10 months involved cars using advanced driver assistance technologies.
The findings are part of a sweeping effort by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to determine the safety of advanced driving systems as they become increasingly common.
In the 392 incidents the agency recorded from July 1 last year to May 15, six people died and five were 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 data was collected under NHTSA asked last year Require car manufacturers to report crashes in cars equipped with advanced driver assistance systems. Dozens of manufacturers have rolled out such systems in recent years, including features that let you take your hands off the wheel under certain conditions and that help you park parallel.
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.
“Until last year, the NHTSA’s response to self-driving and driver-assisted vehicles was negative,” said Matthew Wansley, a professor at Cardoso College of Law in New York who specializes in emerging auto technologies. “This is the first time the federal government has directly collected crash data on these technologies.”
Speaking with reporters before Wednesday’s release, NHTSA Director Stephen Cliff said the data — which the agency will continue to collect — “will help our investigators quickly identify potential fault trends that emerge.”
Dr. Cliff said the NHTSA would use such data as evidence in establishing any rules or requirements for its design and use. “These technologies promise to improve safety, but we need to understand how these vehicles perform in real-world situations,” he said.
But he 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 technologies.
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.
Safety experts are concerned because these systems allow drivers to relinquish active vehicle control and can make them think their cars are driving themselves. When technology breaks or can’t handle a particular situation, drivers may be unwilling to take over quickly.
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 crashes reported in data released Wednesday.
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 lane, and adaptive cruise control, which automatically adjusts the vehicle’s speed and brakes when traffic ahead slows.
In Wednesday’s release, NHTSA revealed that Honda vehicles were involved in 90 crashes and Subarus in 10. Ford, General Motors, BMW, Volkswagen, Toyota, Hyundai and Porsche reported five or fewer.
The data includes vehicles with 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 NHTSA found that motorized vehicles—most of which are still in development but being tested on public roads—were involved in 130 incidents. One resulted in serious injuries, 15 minor or moderate injuries and 108 no injuries. Many accidents involving motorized vehicles have had fender bending or shock absorber taps because they were mainly operating at low speeds and in city driving.
In more than a third of the 130 accidents involving automated systems, the vehicle stopped and collided with another vehicle. The data showed that in 11 accidents, a vehicle equipped with this technology was traveling straight and collided with another vehicle that was changing lanes.
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 company 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 passengers.
None of the cars using automated systems have been involved in fatal accidents, and only one accident resulted in serious injury. In March, a cyclist collided with a vehicle managed by Cruz from behind as they were traveling down a hill on a San Francisco street.
NHTSA’s demand for automakers to provide data has been driven in part by accidents 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 resulted in 14 deaths since 2014. It also opened a preliminary investigation into 16 accidents in which autopilot-controlled Tesla cars crashed into emergency vehicles that stopped and stumbled. Their lights flash.
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 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.
some independent studies They discovered these technologies, but they haven’t yet shown whether they reduce crashes or otherwise improve safety.
Christian Gerdes, a professor of mechanical engineering and director of the Center for Automotive Research at Stanford University, said the data released Wednesday were helpful, to some extent. “Can we learn more from this data? Yes,” he said. “Is it an absolute goldmine for researchers? I don’t see that.”
Because of the revisions, he said, it was difficult to gauge the ultimate benefit of the results. “The NHTSA has a much better understanding of this data than the general public can see just by what has been released,” he said.
Dr. Cliff, director of the NHTSA, was cautious about acting on the findings. “The data may raise more questions than they answer,” he said.
But some experts said the newly available information should prompt regulators to be more assertive.
said Bryant Walker Smith, associate professor in the University of South Carolina Schools of Law and Engineering who specializes in transportation technologies.
“This data could also lead to more voluntary and involuntary disclosures,” he added. Some companies may willingly provide more context, particularly with regard to mileage, “prevented” accidents, and other indicators of good performance. Prosecuting attorneys will look for patterns and even issues in this data.”
Overall, he said, “This is a good start.”
Jason KaoAnd the Asma Al Qurti Vivian Leigh contributed research and reporting.
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