this week, a The U.S. Department of Transportation report details crashes involving advanced driver-assistance systems over the past year or so. Tesla’s advanced features, including Autopilot and Full Self-Driving, accounted for 70 percent of the nearly 400 accidents, far more than was previously known. But because of blind spots in the data, the report could raise more questions about the safety technology than it answers, the researchers said.
The report examines those that promise to reduce some of the tedious or tedious driving by automatically changing lanes, staying within lane lines, braking before a collision, slowing down before big bends on the road, and in some cases operating on the highway. Hazardous sections of the system require no driver intervention. These systems include Autopilot, Ford’s BlueCruise, GM’s Super Cruise and Nissan’s ProPilot Assist. While it does show that these systems aren’t perfect, there’s still a lot to learn about how the new safety features actually work on the road.
That’s largely because automakers submit crash data to the federal government in very different ways. Some companies, such as Tesla, BMW and General Motors, can wirelessly extract detailed data from cars after a crash. This enables them to quickly comply with the government’s 24-hour reporting requirements. But other companies, like Toyota and Honda, don’t have those capabilities. American Honda spokesman Chris Martin said in a statement that the automaker’s report to DOT was based on “unsubstantiated customer claims” that their advanced driver-assistance systems were on at the time of the accident. The automaker can later extract “black box” data from its vehicles, but only with customer permission or law enforcement requirements, and only with specialized wired equipment.
Of the 426 crash reports detailed in government-reported data, only 60 percent came from the car’s telematics system. The other 40% is spread through customer reports and claims—sometimes through a fragmented network of dealers—media reports and law enforcement. As such, the report doesn’t allow anyone to make an “apples-to-apples” comparison between safety features, says Bryan Reimer, who studies automation and vehicle safety at MIT’s AgeLab.
Even the data collected by the government is not put in the full context. For example, the government does not know the frequency of accidents per mile driven by cars with advanced assistance features. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which published the report, warned that some crashes may appear more than once in the data set. Automakers with high market shares and good reporting systems—especially Tesla—may be overrepresented in crash reports simply because they have more cars on the road.
Importantly, the NHTSA report does not prevent automakers from providing more comprehensive data, said Jennifer Homendy, chair of the National Transportation Safety Board, the federal regulator. “The last thing we want is to punish manufacturers who collect reliable safety data,” she said in a statement. “What we want is data that tells us what safety improvements need to be made.”
Without this transparency, it’s hard for drivers to understand, compare, and even use the features that come with the car, and it’s hard for regulators to keep track of who’s doing what. “As we collect more data, NHTSA will be better able to identify any emerging risks or trends and learn more about how these technologies perform in the real world,” the agency’s administrator, Steven Cliff, said in a statement. said in.