NHTSA releases initial crash report for Driver Assist Tech

In 2021, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) asked manufacturers to begin reporting vehicle crashes where advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and/or semi-autonomous driver aids were activated . The agency has been particularly interested in incidents where such systems were active at least 30 seconds before the crash, hoping this could shed light on the technologies at play as the industry continues to make them standard equipment.

The resulting data hasn’t really made modern security systems so effective, especially since they’ve long been touted by automakers, security regulators, and politicians as a path to total elimination. deaths on the roads. Meanwhile, quadrants of the auto industry have taken to the media to collectively lament that the study needs more context before drawing any real conclusions about the technology. This is true of any study. However, part of this context involves the effectiveness of these research efforts and what the parties involved ultimately want you to believe.

Based on information provided by NHTSA, it listed 392 separate incidents between July 1 last year and May 15, 2022. This already raises some red flags, starting with the limited sample size. The study was launched under a general standing order that required companies to share crash information and also gave NHTSA ultimate authority to acquire relevant data. Although preliminary, the intention was to take a broad overview of where the relevant technologies had left us in terms of security.

But that’s going to be hard to do with only 367 reports coming back for analysis and truly surprising given that this number represents SAE Level 2 equipped vehicles. Advanced driver assistance systems of this type are quite common in today’s market. and include features such as lane-keeper with assist, automatic emergency braking, collision avoidance technology and adaptive cruise control (provided that at least two of these systems work in conjunction).

Unfortunately, the NHTSA summary shows that a significant portion of the data came from 139 consumer complaints. The largest pool of data came from manufacturers’ telematics data, representing 258 incidents, with the remaining information coming from a handful of law enforcement reports, on-the-ground analysis or the media. The agency noted that this complicates matters for analysis, as some automakers may not be using systems activated 30 seconds before a crash or lack the type of engagement and lag information collection. Level 2 ADAS telemetry.

That appears to have done a real number on Tesla, which accounted for 273 NHTSA-listed SAE Level 2 crashes — six of which were believed to be fatal. Honda came second, with 90 reported incidents, while Subaru’s 10 crashes left it in third place. No other automaker managed to crack the double-digit numbers, leaving the summary showing Tesla as representing the overwhelming majority of ADAS-related wrecks. Could the US electric vehicle maker really be that far behind the curve or are there other factors influencing the data?

Some report suggested AutoPilot shuts off one second before impact – Ed.

The above could simply be because Tesla offers an inferior product. Although I think Tesla’s Autopilot is one of the easiest systems to use, I find it hard to believe it’s significantly safer than the competition after the company discontinued lidar and d other detection equipment. However, there’s something about Tesla accounting for the overwhelming majority of reported crashes that just doesn’t seem right. Despite the growth, the automaker only managed to sell 301,900 automobiles last year, while brands like Chevrolet, Ford, Toyota and Honda easily surpassed one million.

This likely means either Tesla oversold junk or is massively overrepresented in the NHTSA study. While arguments can be made for both, the latter seems to be the bigger issue given how the brand collects its data. Then there’s the proverbial elephant in the room that most people don’t like to discuss.

Government agencies have long been militarized for political purposes and I began to worry that this now applies to NHTSA to some degree. It’s no secret that Tesla clashed with the Biden administration’s energy plan. Elon Musk has repeatedly criticized the president’s willingness to continue subsidizing electric vehicles on the grounds that government involvement makes the market uncompetitive. The CEO also objected to tying any new incentives to union work. As a result, we have already seen Tesla disinvited from White House events regarding US electrification efforts and increased regulatory pressure has been directed at him since Biden took office. But the brand is also seen as an upstart within the industry, whose very existence has forced mainstream manufacturers to play its game as Musk grabs market share and punches holes in claims that electric vehicles will automatically be better for the environment.

Long story short, there are a lot of people who would rather Tesla didn’t exist and the company’s previous actions (some of which were really egregious) have deterred regulators to such an extent that they might be inclined to intervene. The US Department of Transportation (DOT) already has an Autopilot investigation and has yet to do the same for the systems used by its rivals. I guess the adverse reports were likely a result of how his own telematics played into the study and his status within the industry ensuring no one else cared. But that’s still incredibly speculative, and NHTSA at least tried to portray the study as preliminary and in need of additional context.

From the NHTSA:

These new data are the first of their kind, and the reports detail several important caveats and limitations of this data set that researchers, the press and the public should be aware of. For a clear understanding of the data, users should read the data limitations and sources used by manufacturers and operators to collect and report accidents.

For example, some reporting entities provide the agency with reliable data more quickly because their vehicles are equipped with telematics capabilities. Telematics is the most frequently cited source for data currently collected by the Permanent General Order. Manufacturers and operators are also relying on consumer complaints to start collecting data, which is the second most important source for [SAE Level 2] ADAS and field reports, the second largest source of ADS. Additionally, this data is not normalized by the number of vehicles a manufacturer or developer has deployed or vehicle-kilometres traveled. This information is held by the manufacturers and is not currently reported to NHTSA. Thus, this data cannot be used to compare the safety of manufacturers with each other.

Some initial observations from the data show that since reporting requirements began, one accident reported for [a Level 3-5] The ADS-equipped vehicle resulted in serious injuries and 108 of the crashes resulted in no injuries. Of the 130 reported crashes for ADS-equipped vehicles, 108 involved collisions with another vehicle and 11 involved a vulnerable road user, such as a pedestrian or cyclist.

“The data released today is part of our commitment to transparency, accountability and public safety,” said NHTSA Administrator Dr. Steven Cliff. “New automotive technologies have the potential to help prevent collisions, reduce collision severity and save lives, and the Department is interested in fostering proven technologies; collecting this data is an important step in this effort. As we collect more data, NHTSA will be able to better identify emerging risks or trends and learn more about how these technologies are performing in the real world.

Honda, which also took it on the chin, suggested the resulting data makes it difficult to make any real comparison. Talk with Automotive NewsChris Martin, a spokesman for American Honda, urged caution when reviewing crash data reported to NHTSA, “because apple-to-apple comparisons may simply not be possible at this time. “.

“[The data is] based on unverified customer statements regarding the state of ADAS systems at the time of a reported incident. Since Honda relies on unverified customer reports to comply with NHTSA’s 24-hour reporting deadline, it is likely that some reported incidents would not have met NHTSA’s reporting criteria with data. and more definitive timelines,” he added.

He has a point. Even NHTSA said some of the tabulated crashes could be repeats, noting that included incident reports may also be incomplete or unverified. That’s a pretty low bar for a government study that’s supposed to lead to tangible regulatory action. Meanwhile, we’ve had a few years of independent studies suggesting that at least some of the advanced driver aids don’t work as claimed. Some have even gone so far as to suggest that the very nature of ADAS (and more elaborate driver assistance suites) actually encourages motorists to become complacent to a degree that may make them less safe behind the wheel.

The NHTSA study is divided into two relatively short summaries focusing on accidents involving SAE level 2 and the Level 3-5 more advanced which you are welcome to read for yourself. But neither document seems to offer much hard data beyond how often certain brands were involved and what type of object ended up being hit by the cars in question – and even that was undermined by the The agency’s own admission that there are severe limitations in how things were reported.

Although that would have been forgivable in 2015, when the technology was just beginning to show up on passenger vehicles, policy makers and the industry at large encouraged its proliferation for several years, although there was no not much direct evidence that it actually makes our roads safer. In fact, we have data that the number of deaths per capita has increased quite dramatically since the normalization of ADAS. All of this is very frustrating and makes it almost impossible to draw useful conclusions. Other outlets might not admit it, but NHTSA has done an incredibly poor job of accurately evaluating the effectiveness of modern safety systems and most automakers haven’t reported their data exactly. .

[Image: General Motors]

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