Autonomous vehicles will reduce accidents

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In the past two decades, vehicle manufacturers have designed new and increasingly sophisticated features that provide assistance to drivers to help mitigate driver errors.

Advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) are systems developed to automate vehicle systems for safety and better driving. The safety features are designed to avoid collisions and accidents by offering technologies that alert the driver to potential problems or to avoid collisions by implementing safeguards and taking over control of the vehicle.

Adaptive features may automate lighting, provide adaptive cruise control, automate braking, incorporate GPS/ traffic warnings, connect to smartphones, alert the driver to other cars or dangers, keep the driver in the correct lane, or show what is in blind spots.

Such features are an important precursor to the development of automated vehicles and, currently, expectations are high that the advent of semi- or fully- automated vehicles will dramatically reduce road crashes.

“I believe these are just the early winds of change and we will see many more players stepping forward, said Geof Bailey, Director, Vehicle Safety, Emissions and Product Programs, GM of Canada. Bailey was speaking at the Canadian Association of Road Safety Professionals at the annual conference held a that Delta Chelsea Hotel in Toronto from June 18 to 21.

“Arguably, the transition period with human drivers and autonomous vehicles on the road will be more difficult than the end goal of a fully autonomous state. However,  even in the short term, autonomous vehicles will be safer,” explained Bailey

GM is testing autonomous vehicles on roads in California and Nevada along with many other manufacturers. “We are doing this with the goal of ensuring that autonomous driving is introduced safely.  Autonomous is a journey. You cannot just jump into a fully autonomous vehicle or a fully autonomous state. Technology is introduced through time as the technology, and the product becomes more automated,” added Bailey.

GM is introducing the all-new Super Cruise Cadillac CT6  this fall which will feature hands-free driving.

“We are doing this in a safe, progressive manner. It will be hands-free driving on a divided highway,” explained Bailey. “In our case, we felt it was important to monitor the driver, so we have an infrared camera mounted on the steering column which will monitor the driver to ensure he/she is paying attention. ”

With technology advancing more quickly than our knowledge of how people will interact with and react to them, the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF), with funding from the Toyota Canada Foundation, conducted a national survey in 2016 to examine driver knowledge, attitudes, perceptions, and practices related to emerging automated vehicles.

“Two-thirds of respondents (67 percent) reported they preferred to use vehicles with standalone safety features which are available today, or vehicles that combine select safety features to work in tandem such as lane monitoring and forward collision warning systems. Conversely, just one-fifth (20 percent) of respondents reported they would prefer to use a limited self-driving vehicle; just 14 percent preferred fully self-driving vehicles, explained Robyn Robertson, President, and CEO of the Traffic Injury Research Foundation. Roberston presented the research findings at the CARSP

The study results show drivers who drove longer distances were more likely to report they would use an SDV today and focus group results revealed that trust and confidence in their safety would be essential.

“When unavoidable collisions occur, almost two-thirds (63 percent) of Canadians strongly agreed that SDVs should be programmed to prioritize the safety of vehicle occupants over other road users. More than half of respondents strongly agreed that the safety of groups of people should be prioritized over individuals, or that pedestrians and cyclists should be prioritized,” said Robertson.

One interesting fact that emerged from the study involves switching off the self-driving feature.

One-fifth of drivers (21 percent) reported they would disengage the self-driving feature to drive faster in poor road and weather conditions; 14 percent would disengage self-driving features to run a red-light under similar conditions.

Three critical priorities emerged from this study:

  1. There is a clear need to educate Canadians about AV technology to overcome common misperceptions about its capabilities and increase understanding of its limitations. “Driver assistance systems have dramatically improved to help drivers respond to unpredictable road environments and compensate for human errors. But automated vehicle technology is not ready for deployment beyond enhanced safety and enhanced driver control,” said Robertson.
  2. Younger male drivers demonstrated greater acceptance of and trust in SDVs as compared to other age categories and were more willing to rely on these vehicles to drive. “This means that there is evidence that early adopters of SDVs may be more representative of drivers who are less safety-conscious and more crash-involved. This issue warrants attention as their initial experiences with SDVs will have profound implications for widespread uptake and use, and targeted education to ensure that early adopters are well informed about the limitations of technology is paramount,” added Robertson.
  3. There is clear evidence that the ability of drivers to ‘turn off’ technology designed to improve safety will influence the size of crash reductions that are ultimately achieved. At least a proportion of drivers will want to turn off automated features, and thereby potentially turn off safety. As such, policy decisions by government to regulate the use of features or permit drivers to choose when and in what conditions these features are used will play a critical role in shaping experiences with automated vehicles, and acceptance of SDVs on public roadways.

Robertson says the significant influence of driver behaviour on road safety should not be under-estimated or overlooked. “Strategies to introduce and expand the presence of limited- and fully-automated vehicles on Canadian roadways must strike a careful balance between incentives and controls to maximize safety.”

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