Early Wednesday, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released reports detailing crashes and fatalities involving vehicles equipped with Level 2 Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) and Automated Driving Systems (ADS). This data is the first result of the Standing General Order issued by NHTSA almost a year ago.
Level 2 Advanced Driver Assistance Systems include revolutionary and widespread technologies such as automatic emergency braking, blind-spot detection, and lane-keep assistance. Automated Driving Systems refer to vehicles that use Level 3, 4 or 5 autonomy to control the entire dynamic driving task and do not require a human driver to monitor and supervise the system. These vehicles are not being sold to the public but are being deployed in major cities across the country for testing in preparation for widespread deployment.
NHTSA makes it clear that this data should be carefully examined. In some instances, the data could be incomplete or unverified. NHTSA also notes that different manufacturers receive different data from crashes resulting in a non-standardized data set. Companies must report incidents within a certain time, but do not have to verify the incidents or look for additional information, meaning some reports may be consumer complaints.
NHTSA describes this issue saying, “This means that a reporting entity with access to vehicle telemetry may quickly become aware of an air bag deployment incident subject to the General Order, but it may not become aware of all circumstances related to the crash, such as surface conditions, whether all passengers were belted, or whether an injury occurred. Similarly, a reporting entity may receive a consumer complaint or claim that includes incomplete information.”
The data reports the that as of May 15, 2022:
- There have been 392 Level 2 ADAS-equipped vehicle crashes and 130 ADS-equipped vehicles crashes.
- Of the 98 Level 2 ADAS-equipped vehicle crashes where severity was reported:
- Five included serious injuries
- Six included a fatality
- There was only one report of serious injury and no reports of fatalities in the ADS-equipped data.
- There were only five instances, in total, in which an incident involving ADAS- or ADS-equipped vehicles included a pedestrian.
It is important to remember that this data is not normalized since autonomous vehicle companies do not have to report how many vehicles they manufactured, how many vehicles are operating, or how many miles their vehicles have traveled. When compared to the number of ADAS-equipped vehicles on the road, the number of accidents is notably less significant.
We should not see these reports as an “attack” on ADS and ADAS technologies. Only a few months ago, some were discussing the possibility that ADAS features like automatic emergency braking, blind-spot detection, and lane-keep assistance might become essential to receive a five-star safety rating from the updated New Car Assessment Program (NCAP).
Lastly, the reports surrounding ADS-equipped vehicles show their safety. These vehicles are most often traveling at low speeds in cities. They are not an issue of any large magnitude. Only two incidents involved ADS vehicles and pedestrians. Autonomous vehicles like Cruise, Waymo, Zoox, and others are not causing widespread safety concerns on the road. They are testing and developing technology that will solve many of our biggest logistical and safety challenges.
Advanced Driver Assistance Systems and Automated Driving Systems are continuing to deploy across the country. NHTSA’s involvement shows these technologies are maturing and participating in our transportation system. Eventually, developers and manufacturers will benefit from NHTSA’s engagement as clear guidelines and best practices are shared among the industry. Additionally, NHTSA’s involvement will go a long way to build confidence with consumers which will be essential in crafting a future that takes advantage of the full benefit of autonomous vehicles.