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Will self-driving cars cause more accidents?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently released data on accidents involving automated driving systems and advanced driver assistance systems. The car accident attorneys at Jinks Crow & Dickson are prepared and ready to represent clients in self-driving car accidents. Below is more information on the NHTSA’s findings.

Is using driver-assist features negligent? Are such features defective?

This is an evolving area. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently released data on 10 months of crashes involving self-driving[i] and driver-assist crashes[ii], referred by the agency as Automated Driving Systems (ADS)[iii] and Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS)[iv]. While the NHTSA requires manufacturers to submit this data so that it can ensure safety for the public, the results are interesting and may be a precursor of things to come. Meanwhile, what does the data show?

The NHTSA report notes 392 incidents from July 1 of last year through May 15 of this year.

One hundred thirty involved ADS-equipped vehicles and 367 involved Level 2 ADAS-equipped vehicles.[v] Six people died and five were seriously injured. Teslas operating with Autopilot or any of its associated component features were involved in 273 crashes. Honda vehicles were involved in 90 incidents, Subarus in 10, Ford Motor, General Motors, BMW, Volkswagen, Toyota, Hyundai, and Porsche each reported five or fewer.

However, Steven Cliff, the NHTSA administrator, cautioned against drawing conclusions from the data collected so far.[vi]

He noted that the data does not consider factors like the number of cars from each manufacturer that are on the road and equipped with these types of technologies. “These technologies hold great promise to improve safety, but we need to understand how these vehicles are performing in real-world situations,” Cliff said. “This will help our investigators quickly identify potential defect trends that emerge.”[vii]

Under an order issued by the NHTSA last year, manufacturers and operators of vehicles equipped with ADS or SAE Level 2 ADAS must report certain crashes to the NHTSA.

The following are the reporting requirements: (1) If ADS was in use at any time within 30 seconds of the crash and the crash resulted in property damage or injury, or (2) if Level 2 ADAS was in use at any time within 30 seconds of the crash and the crash involved a vulnerable road user or resulted in a fatality, a vehicle tow-away, an airbag deployment, or any individual being transported to a hospital for medical treatment.[viii]

Meanwhile, drivers are still responsible to those whom they cause an injury by virtue of operating their motor vehicle, though the driver or person in the other car that was injured may have a claim against the vehicle’s manufacturer if the automated driving system or driver assistance system was defective thereby causing the accident.

It’s complicated. An experienced personal injury attorney is a must. Call us today if you or a loved one suffered severe injuries or death as the result of a motor vehicle accident.

[i] [ii] [iii] ADS, still in development, encompass SAE Levels 3 through 5. In its mature state, a vehicle equipped with ADS aims to perform the entire dynamic driving task on a sustained basis within a defined operational design domain without driver involvement. While these vehicles are in development and are being tested on public roads in limited capacities, they are not available for consumer purchase at this time. [iv] Level 2 ADAS provide both speed and steering input when the driver assistance system is engaged but require the human driver to remain fully engaged in the driving task at all times. [v] [vi] [vii] Id. [viii]


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