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Research shows crash rates for self-driving cars lower than conventional cars

A BRITISH study reveals the majority of UK motorists (three in five) currently worry about the safety of a fully autonomous vehicle, but research by a US university has found that US crash rates for self-driving cars are lower than the national crash rate of conventional cars.

Britons are also concerned that technology failing would result in the vehicle breaking down (51 percent).

40 per cent simply mistrust the concept of a self-driving car with a fifth of motorists even saying it scares them.

The British research for Continental Tyres is part of its ‘Vision Zero’ commitment, which aims to eliminate road accidents through innovative tyre technologies and automotive systems.

Despite concerns, the 2,000 people surveyed did express what they consider to be major advantages of driverless vehicles; the top being the possibility of safer roads, more efficient and reduced journey times, and having to concentrate less.

Yet, when asked about their view on the prospects of autonomous vehicles, a quarter of UK motorists believe that motoring and technology companies could exaggerate what is possible.

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Mark Griffiths, Safety spokesman for Continental Tyres said: “… safety is of utmost importance at Continental when it comes to any of our products or automotive technologies, and it is clear from this research that UK motorists identify with safety as a significant trust factor.”

The results are released just before the end of CES (the Consumer Technology Show) in Las Vegas where connected cars have been one of the hot topics, yet just five years ago no automotive brands were present at the show – an indicator of how fast-moving the area is.

In the US, a new report, “Automated Vehicle Crash Rate Comparison Using Naturalistic Data,” performed by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute and commissioned by Google, shows that that when data is adjusted for unreported crashes and take into account accident severity, the national crash rate for conventional vehicles is higher than the crash rate of self-driving cars.

Up until now, comparisons based on existing data have been incomplete as requirements in each state for police reported crashes differ, and the majority of severe crashes that go unreported.

Estimates of unreported rates of crashes have ranged from as little as 15.4 percent to as much as 59.7 percent.

The result is that the current national crash rate is essentially a low estimate of the actual crash rate. Meanwhile, self-driving cars are required to report every crash, regardless of severity.

The report examines national crash data and data from naturalistic driving studies that closely monitors the on-road experience of 3,300 vehicles driving more than 34 million vehicle miles, to better estimate existing crash rates, and then compares the results to data from Google’s Self-Driving Car program.

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Key findings include:

- Adjusted for unreported crashes and accident severity (accidents that fall within the two highest severity levels), the national crash rate estimates of 4.2 crashes per million miles is higher than the crash rates for the Self-Driving Car operating in autonomous mode (3.2 per million miles).

- The crash rate of conventional vehicles at all levels of severity is higher than the self-driving car crash rates, according to analysis of the Second Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP 2) Naturalistic Driving Study.

- Current data suggest that conventional vehicles may have higher rates of more severe crashes than self-driving cars, but given the small overall number of crashes for the self-driving car at these levels, there is insufficient data to draw this conclusion with strong confidence.

However, there is statistically-significant data that suggest less severe events may happen at significantly lower rates for self-driving cars than conventional vehicles.

When the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, using methods developed for the Second Strategic Highway Research Program Naturalistic Driving Study, analyzed the Google Self-Driving Car events, none of the vehicles operating in autonomous mode were deemed at fault.

As self-driving cars continue to be tested and increase their exposure, the uncertainty in their event rates will decrease. This is particularly appropriate to vehicles intended for lower-speed use where less-severe events are the most likely to be encountered by the newer generation of the Self-Driving Car fleet.

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