Autonomous Vehicle Technology Could Increase Crash Rate: IIHS

The United States’ Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IHSS) says many advanced driver-assistance system technologies can reduce the number of lives lost on roads, but full or partial automation is not among them.

“We firmly believe in technology for vehicle safety and the potential it has to reduce the tragic toll on our roadways,” said David Harkey, President of the IIHS, during a Capitol Hill briefing on autonomous vehicles organised for legislators by advocates of driving safety. “We do not believe in the promise of technology to completely replace drivers and for the vehicle to assume all responsibility for vehicle operations.”

IIHS research shows that forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking (AEB) slash rear-end vehicle-to-vehicle crashes by 27 and 50 per cent, respectively. Similarly, AEB systems that can recognise and brake to avoid people reduce pedestrian crashes by 27 per cent.

However, crash data has not shown similar benefits for Level 2 partial automation systems currently on the market. IIHS research suggests that at least some designs may be adding to the danger on the road by lulling drivers into complacency behind the wheel.

The IIHS said autonomous systems can control vehicle speed and steering, but they’re not currently, and may never be, able to handle every situation that arises, so drivers must always remain focused and ready to take over. According to the institute, human nature makes that extremely difficult.

“In observational studies, we have found that drivers using these systems tend to drive faster, look away from the road more frequently and for longer periods of time, and engage in more distracting behaviours,” said Harkey.