Automated vehicle technologies are on the rise. There are six levels of driving automation, and Level 0 is the one we’re most familiar with. At that level there is no automation and the driver performs all tasks associated with vehicle operation. In Levels 1 and 2 the vehicle can perform some tasks but the driver must monitor the driving environment and remain fully engaged in the driving task at all times. Finally, in Levels 3 through 5 there’s an increasing level of automation and the systems monitor the driving environment. At the highest level is Full Automation.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) requires that manufacturers report to the agency certain crashes for vehicles using Levels 2 through 5 systems. Recently NHTSA released the first report of the data collected. The report considered data from 392 Level 2 and 130 Level 3 – 5 crashes. There are limitations as the report notes:
Crash data recording and telemetry capabilities may vary widely by manufacturer and automated vehicle system. Many Leve 2 ADAS-equipped vehicles may be limited in their capabilities to record data related to driving automation system engagement and crash circumstances. The vehicle’s ability to remotely transmit this data to the manufacturer for notification purposes can also widely vary. Furthermore, Level 2 ADAS-equipped vehicles are generally privately owned; as a result, when a reportable crash does occur, manufacturers may not know of it unless contacted by the vehicle owner.
For vehicles with Level 2 driver assistance systems:
- 92% of the reports were from Honda and Tesla vehicles
- Serious injuries or a fatality occurred in 11 of the 98 crashes where crash severity was reported
- 116 of specified Level 2 ADAS collisions were with another vehicle.
- Four crashes involved a vulnerable road user (1 with cyclist, 3 with pedestrians).
- When damage was reported, the Level 2 ADAS vehicles were most commonly damaged on the front. This could indicate driver distraction and a failure to remain engaged.
For vehicles with Level 3 – 5 systems:
- Waymo, Transdev, and Cruise reported the most ADS crashes (92%)
- There were no fatalities. One of the specified crashes reported serious injuries.
- 108 of the specified crashes had no reported injuries. (82%)
- 108 of ADS-involved crashes reported collisions with another vehicle.
- 11 crashes involved a vulnerable road user (7 with cyclists, 2 with motorcycles, 2 Non-Motorist: Other crashes were with electric scooters).
- When damage was reported, the ADS-equipped vehicles were most commonly damaged in the rear. This could indicate non-preventable, but the data is not robust enough to support that conclusively.
NHTSA will be periodically updating these statistics. However, they caution that they could not normalize the data by the number of vehicles a manufacturer or developer has deployed or by vehicle miles traveled. That information, it noted, is held by manufacturers and not currently reported to NHTSA.