This week, a US Department of Transportation report detailed the crashes that superior driver-assistance methods have been concerned in over the previous yr or so. Tesla’s superior options, together with Autopilot and Full Self-Driving, accounted for 70 p.c of the almost 400 incidents—many greater than beforehand recognized. But the report might increase extra questions on this security tech than it solutions, researchers say, due to blind spots within the information.
The report examined methods that promise to take among the tedious or harmful bits out of driving by routinely altering lanes, staying inside lane traces, braking earlier than collisions, slowing down earlier than massive curves within the street, and, in some circumstances, working on highways with out driver intervention. The methods embrace Autopilot, Ford’s BlueCruise, General Motors’ Super Cruise, and Nissan’s ProPilot Assist. While it does present that these methods aren’t excellent, there’s nonetheless loads to study how a brand new breed of security options truly work on the street.
That’s largely as a result of automakers have wildly other ways of submitting their crash information to the federal authorities. Some, like Tesla, BMW, and GM, can pull detailed information from their vehicles wirelessly after a crash has occurred. That permits them to shortly adjust to the federal government’s 24-hour reporting requirement. But others, like Toyota and Honda, don’t have these capabilities. Chris Martin, a spokesperson for American Honda, mentioned in an announcement that the carmaker’s studies to the DOT are based mostly on “unverified customer statements” about whether or not their superior driver-assistance methods have been on when the crash occurred. The carmaker can later pull “black box” information from its automobiles, however solely with buyer permission or at legislation enforcement request, and solely with specialised wired gear.
Of the 426 crash studies detailed within the authorities report’s information, simply 60 p.c got here via vehicles’ telematics methods. The different 40 p.c have been via buyer studies and claims—generally trickled up via diffuse dealership networks—media studies, and legislation enforcement. As a consequence, the report doesn’t permit anybody to make “apples-to-apples” comparisons between security options, says Bryan Reimer, who research automation and car security at MIT’s AgeLab.
Even the information the federal government does acquire isn’t positioned in full context. The authorities, for instance, doesn’t understand how typically a automotive utilizing a complicated help function crashes per miles it drives. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which launched the report, warned that some incidents may seem greater than as soon as within the information set. And automakers with excessive market share and good reporting methods in place—particularly Tesla—are doubtless overrepresented in crash studies just because they’ve extra vehicles on the street.
It’s vital that the NHTSA report doesn’t disincentivize automakers from offering extra complete information, says Jennifer Homendy, chair of the federal watchdog National Transportation Safety Board. “The last thing we want is to penalize manufacturers that collect robust safety data,” she mentioned in an announcement. “What we do want is data that tells us what safety improvements need to be made.”
Without that transparency, it may be exhausting for drivers to make sense of, examine, and even use the options that include their automotive—and for regulators to maintain observe of who’s doing what. “As we gather more data, NHTSA will be able to better identify any emerging risks or trends and learn more about how these technologies are performing in the real world,” Steven Cliff, the company’s administrator, mentioned in an announcement.