‘Self-driving’ cars linked to hundreds of crashes over past year

23 June 2022

by Christopher Carey

Cars with driver assistance systems and autonomous technologies have been involved in hundreds of crashes over the past year according to newly released data from the US ‘National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

The agency found that vehicles equipped with Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) were involved in 392 crashes between 1 July 2021 and 15 May 2022.

Six of those were fatal, five resulted in serious injuries, and a further 41 caused minor or moderate injuries.

Senator Richard Blumenthal, Chair, US Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Product Safety, said the findings were “a cause for deep alarm”.

“[The] NHTSA has to be particularly aggressive here to say no more business as usual.

“Should NHTSA find any technology to be unsafe, it ought to act promptly to ensure that that technology is forbidden, not actively put in any vehicles.”

The findings are a response to a Standing General Order requiring that car manufacturers and operators report crashes to the NHTSA when Level 2 or higher autonomy is active at the time of the incident.

The order allows the agency to acquire “timely and transparent” notification of real-world crashes associated with advanced driver support and level 2 ADAS from manufacturers and operators to help it raise safety concerns about them through further investigation and enforcement.

Should it find a safety defect, the agency says it will take action to ensure unsafe vehicles are taken off public roads or remedied, as appropriate.

Data-driven approach

The NHTSA hopes the information will support a “more data-driven approach” to safely rolling out self-driving tech, including regulation and education.

Cathy Chase, President of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, said: “The public has a right to know how partially automated systems and autonomous vehicles (AVs) are performing on our roadways, especially considering currently there are no federal safety standards for these newer systems.

“Features which fall under the overarching term of advanced driver assistance systems, or ADAS, like automatic emergency braking (AEB), lane departure warning (LDW) and blind spot detection (BSD) have been shown to be effective at preventing or mitigating crashes.

“However, their full potential to save lives will not be realized until the DOT issues minimum performance standards.

“While more time is needed to analyze the data released this morning, it is clear that US road users are unwitting participants in the beta testing of automated driving technology.”

Image: Marcus Zacher (Flickr)

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