How Safe Are Autonomous Vehicles?

Federal regulators are just starting to gain an understanding of how vehicles with automation systems impact traffic safety.

June 17, 2022, 8:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


The interior of a Tesla, with a large video screen. The person behind the wheel is touching the screen.

Aleksandra Suzi / Shutterstock

A federal report reveals a dearth of data about cars with advanced vehicle automation systems (ADAS), which “are involved in far more crashes than previously known,” writes Kea Wilson for Streetsblog.

“According to a new analysis from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, automakers reported 392 crashes in just 11 months among motorists who used “advanced driver assistance systems” within 30 seconds of an impact.” Until June 2021, automakers were not even required to report these crashes, and they are still not responsible for accounting for pedestrian safety.

“[T]he new trove of data raised particular questions about Tesla, which has become notorious for marketing itself as a path-breaking safety innovator despite a rash of high-profile crashes.” Wilson notes that almost 70 percent of ADAS involve Tesla vehicles.

“NHTSA announced last week that it’s expanding its investigation into Tesla’s misleadingly named ‘Autopilot’ and ‘Full Self Driving’ ‘advanced driver assistance’ systems to see whether they could be actually causing crashes by lulling drivers into a false sense of security behind the wheel of what they think are fully autonomous vehicles, but aren’t.” The article quotes Phil Koopman, an associate professor at Carnegie Mellon University, who suggests that the NHTSA “should be asking a lot more questions about the impact of ADAS on America’s traffic safety landscape” to understand how to effectively regulate the industry.

Comprehensively addressing autonomous vehicle safety, writes Wilson, “will require cities to think more deeply about designing safe roadway environments where no car is likely to kill.”

Thursday, June 16, 2022 in Streetsblog USA

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