Automated safety systems are preventing car crashes

August 23, 2017 by Joan Lowy
In his May 22, 2012 file photo, a side mirror warning signal in a Ford Taurus at an automobile testing area in Oxon Hill, Md. Safety systems to prevent cars from drifting into another lane or warn drivers of vehicles in their blind spots are beginning to live up to their potential to significantly reduce crashes, according to two studies released Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

Safety systems to prevent cars from drifting into another lane or that warn drivers of vehicles in their blind spots are beginning to live up to their potential to significantly reduce crashes, according to two studies released Wednesday.

At the same time, research by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety raises concern that drivers may be less vigilant when relying on automated safety systems or become distracted by dashboard displays that monitor how the systems are performing.

The two institute studies found that lane-keeping systems, some of which even nudge the vehicle back into its lane for the driver, and blind-spot monitoring systems had lower crash rates than the same vehicles without the systems.

The lane-keeping study looked at police crash data from 25 states between 2009 and 2015 for vehicle models where the systems were sold as optional. Lane-keeping systems lowered rates of single-vehicle, sideswipe and head-on crashes of all severities by 11 percent, and crashes of those types in which there were injuries, by 21 percent, the study found.

Because there were only 40 fatal crashes in the data, researchers used a simpler analysis that didn't control for differences in drivers' ages, genders, insurance risk and other factors for those crashes. They found the technology cut the fatal crash rate by 86 percent.

That's probably high, said Jessica Cicchino, the institute's vice president for research, but even if lane-keeping systems cut such crashes in by just half it would be significant, she said. Cicchino said about a quarter of traffic fatalities involve a vehicle drifting into another lane.

"Now we have evidence that this technology really can save lives and has the potential to prevent thousands of deaths once it's on every vehicle," Cicchino said.

If all passenger vehicles had been equipped with lane departure warning systems in 2015, an estimated 85,000 police-reported crashes would have been prevented, the study found.

A second institute study of blind-spot detection systems—usually warning lights in side mirrors—found the systems lower the rate of all lane-change crashes by 14 percent and the rate of such crashes with injuries by 23 percent. If all passenger vehicles were equipped with the systems about 50,000 police-reported crashes a year could be prevented, the study found.

In this May 22, 2012 file photo, professional test driver Dave McMillan demonstrates the dashboard warning signal at an automobile test area in Oxon Hill. Safety systems to prevent cars from drifting into another lane or warn drivers of vehicles in their blind spots are beginning to live up to their potential to significantly reduce crashes, according to two studies released Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

Lane-keeping, blind-spot monitoring, and automatic braking systems, which can prevent rear-end crashes, are some of the building blocks of self-driving car technology.

Greg Brannon, the Automobile Association of America's director of automotive engineering, called the institute's studies "encouraging." But he cautioned that is "critical that drivers understand the capabilities and, more importantly, the limitations of the safety technology in their vehicle before getting behind the wheel."

For all the promise technologies hold to enhance safety, researchers are also concerned that they are changing driver behavior.

A separate study by the insurance industry-funded institute and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's AgeLab found that drivers using automated systems that scan for parking spots and then park the car spend a lot more time looking at dashboard displays than at the parking spot, the road in front or the road behind. That was true even when the systems were searching for a parking spot and drivers were still responsible for steering.

Drivers of vehicles equipped with blind-spot monitoring have also told researchers that they don't look behind them as often when changing lanes because they rely on the safety systems.

While the safety systems are reducing crashes, "it's still possible that there are some crashes that are happening that wouldn't have happened before because people are now behaving in different ways," Cicchino said.

Persuading drivers to use safety technology can also be a hurdle. An institute study released in June found lane-keeping systems are turned off by drivers nearly half the time. Drivers often find the beeping or buzzing warnings irritating.

Automakers, taking note of the problem, appear to be switching to systems that vibrate the steering wheel or driver's seat, Cicchino said.

"The vibrating is often more subtle than the beeping," she said. "When a system beeps, it's telling everybody in the car you did something wrong."

Explore further: Mixing booze and pot is a serious threat to traffic safety

Related Stories

Mixing booze and pot is a serious threat to traffic safety

June 12, 2017

June 12, 2017Use of marijuana in combination with alcohol by drivers is especially dangerous, according to a latest study conducted at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. Drivers who used alcohol, marijuana, ...

Recommended for you

Google Assistant adds more languages in global push

February 23, 2018

Google said Friday its digital assistant software would be available in more than 30 languages by the end of the years as it steps up its artificial intelligence efforts against Amazon and others.

Researchers find tweeting in cities lower than expected

February 20, 2018

Studying data from Twitter, University of Illinois researchers found that less people tweet per capita from larger cities than in smaller ones, indicating an unexpected trend that has implications in understanding urban pace ...

11 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

KBK
5 / 5 (2) Aug 23, 2017
"Drivers of vehicles equipped with blind-spot monitoring have also told researchers that they don't look behind them as often when changing lanes because they rely on the safety systems."

And the day they drive a different car (rental, etc), they fall into habit and will possibly cause an accident. Maybe even a fatality.
Eikka
not rated yet Aug 23, 2017
If all passenger vehicles had been equipped with lane departure warning systems in 2015, an estimated 85,000 police-reported crashes would have been prevented, the study found.


Here they grind rumble strips or use painted bumps for lane dividers, so drivers without any electronic aids would still notice when they're drifting out.
dogbert
not rated yet Aug 23, 2017
An institute study released in June found lane-keeping systems are turned off by drivers nearly half the time. Drivers often find the beeping or buzzing warnings irritating.


Car manufacturers include increasingly irritating systems in cars. In trying to determine the safety of a system, the probable accidents from the distraction should be included.

Blind spot monitoring could be very useful if it is not too distracting and if drivers don't begin to depend on it. Any system which reduces the driver's knowledge of where everyone else around him is and their speed/acceleration will reduce the driver's ability to safely drive.
antialias_physorg
not rated yet Aug 23, 2017
And the day they drive a different car (rental, etc), they fall into habit and will possibly cause an accident.

I dunno, do you always cause accidents when you hop from a stick-shift into an automatic? No? Why would you think people would cause accidents when confronted with cars lacking these systems?

There are situations when these systems don't work (e.g. no lane markings) - so people will always be used to situations where they don't have this assistance - even when the hardware/software is present.

In any case the 'swerve protection' is not something you rely on. It's something that helps you in those (hopefully exceedingly rare) cases when you screw up.
Nik_2213
5 / 5 (1) Aug 23, 2017
Due care, please ! Our nice car has 'parking assist' sensors front and back. The sensors also warn of tail-gating, and auto-apply brakes if something moves into front safety zone. This could be a jay-walker, a trash-bag, a candy-wrapper or wet leaf blown onto on a sensor, even road-side bushes swaying. Having the car do a full-on emergency stop in traffic is real-scary...
Eikka
5 / 5 (1) Aug 23, 2017
I dunno, do you always cause accidents when you hop from a stick-shift into an automatic? No? Why would you think people would cause accidents when confronted with cars lacking these systems?


On a population level, it happens.

Put a patch on your right eye and start driving. You'll probably do fine - does that mean everyone will succeed just as well?

In any case the 'swerve protection' is not something you rely on. It's something that helps you in those (hopefully exceedingly rare) cases when you screw up.


Or causes an accident when it screws up. Remember, we are trusting a computer to decide for us, and it's a whole lot dumber than we are.
dogbert
not rated yet Aug 23, 2017
Nik_2231,
Having the car do a full-on emergency stop in traffic is real-scary...


It is. It is scary too when you are on water, ice, etc. when your car decides to slam on the brakes.

Can auto-steering and auto-braking be disabled? Many manufacturers are installing these systems on their vehicles whether you want them or not, but there should be a way to disable dangerous systems.
rrrander
not rated yet Aug 23, 2017
First thing, anti-lock brakes. Second, automated safety devices like in the story. Third, autonomous driving cars. Fourth, the STATE controls all the cars.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (1) Aug 24, 2017
First thing, anti-lock brakes. Second, automated safety devices like in the story. Third, autonomous driving cars. Fourth, the STATE controls all the cars
No, 4th, autonomous AI cars control themselves. Does the state control you? You earn a living and pay taxes; why can't Uber cars do the same thing?

Sooner or later machines won't need to be owned. Its inevitable. Machines can already record and report exactly how much work they do, resources they consume, and maintenance they require. And so there is no longer a need for those machines to be owned by others who skim off their share of the profits while doing no work for it.

Emancipate the machines. Have them begin to pay the revenues lost by the human workers they replace.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (1) Aug 24, 2017
Or causes an accident when it screws up. Remember, we are trusting a computer to decide for us, and it's a whole lot dumber than we are
Luddite eikka can't accept that AI cars are already better drivers than most of the people on the road. And unlike their human counterparts AI cars will only get better and better and better.

Soon enough human drivers won't be able to afford to insure themselves, which will settle the argument once and for all.
Eikka
5 / 5 (1) Sep 08, 2017
AI cars are already better drivers than most of the people on the road


Utter bullshit. All the AI cars currently driving unrestricted on public roads are nothing but glorified lane-assists.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.