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Driver Assist Systems Cause Hundreds of Crashes- NHTSA Reports

As more automakers incorporate advanced technology into their vehicles, it is vital to understand the risk these high-tech additions pose. In doing so, stakeholders will have an easier time differentiating accidents emanating from human error and those caused by the failure of these systems.

What Are Driver Assist Systems?

Driver assistance systems are a set of technologies incorporated into vehicles to automate and improve their functioning. Categories include lane departure control, automatic braking, obstacle detection, blind spot detection, night vision, and accident prevention systems.

You should note that, as of now, the technology is mostly semi-autonomous, meaning the driver needs to be actively involved in driving and take control when needed.

However, as these systems’ popularity increases, so does the concern about their safety and risks.  There have been several reports of system failure shortly before crashes in automated vehicles.

Safety experts have raised concerns over drivers’ false sense of confidence due to this automation to the point of getting distracted, which often leads to avoidable accidents.

The NHTSA Directive

Recently, the NHTSA released data pertaining to crashes involving vehicles with driver assist systems, which was collected over ten months.

According to the report,  nearly 400 crashes were technology-related, some of which were fatal. Six people lost their lives, while five others sustained severe injuries from failed vehicle automation systems.

Since last year, the NHTSA mandated all auto manufacturers to report any crashes caused or related to driver assistance modules. This move is aimed at shedding more light on how these systems work and their flaws.

The NHTSA’s mandate was a step in the right direction. It is working in tandem with the federal government to crash data on driver assistance systems directly from the vehicle manufacturer.

The Importance of the Data

Steven Cliff, the NHTSA administrator, hopes that the data collected will help identify the defects in these systems. According to Dr. Cliff, it will be used in the design, manufacturing, and regulations of laws on these systems.

Dr. Cliff explained that it is imperative to understand how these systems perform in actual world situations if their functionality is to be improved

However, he was quick to note that the data gathered so far cannot provide substantial insights as it does not contain the total number of vehicles installed with driver assistance systems.

Manufacturer Specific Statistics

Tesla, for example, has nearly 830,000 vehicles in the US equipped with driver-assist technologies. This could be why it accounted for most crashes involving these technologies. Other companies like BMW and Ford also have these systems but in fewer vehicles.

Consequently, the NHTSA noted that manufacturers like Porsche, Toyota, Hyundai, BMW, Ford, and Volkswagen reported less than five accidents yearly, while Honda and Subaru recorded 90 and 10 accidents, respectively.

Fortunately, fatalities from automated vehicle crashes are minimal. Of the 130 crashes reported by the NHTSA, one was severe, 15 were moderate, and 108 had no injuries.

Additionally, most of these accidents were caused by the sudden braking of automated vehicles, making other vehicles hit them. 11 of these crashes also happened during a lane change on the highways. Finally, most of these accidents also occurred in cities like San Francisco, where the systems were being tested.

What Next?

The NHTSA has now widened its investigation into automated vehicles, particularly autopilot technologies. This way, it hopes to determine if the technology has any flaws causing these crashes.

“This data could ultimately make a difference in the laws governing vehicle automation technologies, thereby increasing road safety,” says attorney Gregory Erpenbeck of Busald Funk Zevely Law. Even though the general public might not make sense of these statistics, the NHTSA could draw meaningful insights.

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