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Status Report |

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Highway Loss Data Institute

Reality
check
Research, deadly crashes show need
for caution on road to full autonomy

SPECIAL ISSUE:
AUTONOMOUS VEHICLES
Vol. 53, No. 4 | August 7, 2018
The road to full driving autonomy is paved with good intentions:
Reduce crashes, reduce deaths, reduce congestion, increase
mobility. That is the bright future the industry is chasing. Like
the evolution of any nascent technology, however, there have
been glitches and misfires along the way. Even deaths.
The idea of self-driving cars has gar- New IIHS research based on track tests The Uber crash in Arizona that took the
nered so much press that consumers can and on-road experiences with Level 2 life of a pedestrian in March shows the
almost be forgiven for thinking the latest driver assistance uncovers some of the in- hazards of beta testing self-driving vehi-
cars can drive themselves. herent challenges with partial automation. cles on public roads. IIHS researchers ex-
While it is true that many new vehi- The deadly crash of a Tesla Model X plore how automatic emergency braking
cles can assist drivers in performing cer- on a California highway in March demon- and better headlights might have helped
tain tasks, such as maintaining following strates the limits of the technology and the prevent this tragedy.
distance and lane centering, no car can propensity of some drivers to misuse it. Finally, a patchwork of state laws and
handle every driving task on a full range of A HLDI analysis of Tesla insurance voluntary federal policy guidelines lacks
roads and conditions. losses reveals benefits for the combined the safeguards needed to protect every-
This special issue of Status Report is a crash avoidance features on the Model S, one on the road as fully autonomous vehi-
follow-up to the November 2016 special while the benefit of adding “Autopilot” is cles are tested and eventually deployed in
issue on autonomous vehicles. limited to lowering collision claims. the U.S. n

2 | Status Report — Vol. 53, No.4


Road, track tests to help IIHS craft ratings
program for driver assistance features
O
n-road and track tests are helping
IIHS craft a consumer ratings pro-
gram for advanced driver assistance
systems. Evaluations of adaptive cruise con-
trol and active lane-keeping show variable
performance in typical driving situations,
such as approaching stopped vehicles and
negotiating hills and curves. The early re-
sults underscore the fact that today’s systems
aren’t robust substitutes for human drivers.
One of the questions researchers looked
to answer is, do the systems handle driving
tasks as humans would? Not always, tests
showed. When they didn’t perform as ex-
pected, the outcomes ranged from the irk-
some, such as too-cautious braking, to the
dangerous, for example, veering toward the
shoulder if sensors couldn’t detect lane lines.
Adaptive cruise control (ACC) main-
tains a set speed and following distance
from the vehicle in front. It is designed to
slow for cars ahead and can come to a full
stop but may not react to already-stopped
vehicles. ACC doesn’t react to traffic sig-
nals or other traffic controls. Active lane-
keeping provides sustained steering input Adaptive cruise control Curves and hills can challenge active
to keep the vehicle within its lane, but driv- Engineers evaluated ACC systems in four lane-keeping systems. The Tesla Model 3
ers must continue to hold the wheel. different series of track tests to see how performed well in these on-road tests.
On SAE International’s scale of zero auton- they handle stopped lead vehicles and lead
omy to Level 5 full autonomy, the combina- vehicles exiting the lane, and how the sys- its autobrake performance. In the ACC test,
tion of ACC and active lane-keeping is Level tems accelerate and decelerate. the S90 braked at a forceful 1.1g, just 1.1 sec-
2. They can assist with steering, speed con- One series involved driving at 31 mph onds before impact to avoid the collision.
trol and following distance, but the human toward a stationary vehicle target with A third scenario involved following a lead
driver is still in charge and must stay on task. ACC off and autobrake turned on to eval- vehicle that slows down to a stop and then
“The new tests are an outgrowth of our uate autobrake performance. Only the two accelerates. Every ACC system decelerated
research on Level 2 autonomy,” says Jessica Teslas hit the stationary target in this test. smoothly in this test.
Jermakian, IIHS senior research engineer. The same test was repeated with ACC A fourth scenario involved the test ve-
“We zeroed in on situations our staff have engaged and set to close, middle and far hicle following a lead vehicle, which then
identified as areas of concern during test following distance in multiple runs. changed lanes to reveal a stationary inflat-
drives with Level 2 systems, then used that With ACC active, the 5-series, E-Class, able target vehicle in the path ahead when
feedback to develop road and track scenar- Model 3 and Model S braked earlier and the time to collision was about 4.3 seconds.
ios to compare vehicles.” gentler than with emergency braking and None of the vehicles crashed into the
The 2017 BMW 5-series with “Driving still avoided the target. The cars slowed target, and the 5 series, E-Class and Teslas
Assistant Plus,” 2017 Mercedes-Benz E- with relatively gradual decelerations of all braked earlier and gentler than the S90,
Class with “Drive Pilot,” 2018 Tesla Model 3 0.2-0.3 gs, braking in the same manner no similar to the active ACC test.
and 2016 Model S with “Autopilot” (software matter the distance setting. Braking before Track tests are good for evaluating ca-
versions 8.1 and 7.1, respectively) and 2018 impact was earlier for the Teslas than for pability and performance in a controlled
Volvo S90 with “Pilot Assist” were evaluated. the 5 series and E-Class. environment but not for assessing perfor-
All five have automatic emergency braking The S90 braked more abruptly than the mance in traffic. Under ideal conditions,
systems rated superior by IIHS. other models with ACC active, similar to advanced driver assistance systems may »

August 7, 2018 |3
(« from p. 3) function better than they do “At IIHS we are coached to intervene cross the line on the inside of the curve in
in more complex driving situations. without warning, but other drivers might one trial. None of the other systems tested
A case in point is the stopped-vehicle not be as vigilant,” Jermakian says. “ACC provided enough steering input on their
ACC tests. On the track, the 5 series, E- systems require drivers to pay attention to own to consistently stay in their lane, often
Class and Teslas braked to avoid the target what the vehicle is doing at all times and be requiring the driver to provide additional
vehicle. This was the case even though the ready to brake manually.” steering to successfully navigate the curve.
owner’s manuals for all the test vehicles Unnecessary or overly cautious brak- The E-Class stayed within the lane in 9 of
warn that ACC may not brake when it en- ing is an issue IIHS noted in the Model 3. 17 runs and strayed to the lane marker in
counters vehicles that are already stopped In 180 miles, the car unexpectedly slowed five trials. The system disengaged itself in
when they come into sensor range. down 12 times, seven of which coincided one trial and crossed the line in two. The 5
Out on the road, engineers noted instances with tree shadows on the road. The others series stayed within the lane in 3 of 16 trials
in which each vehicle except the Model 3 were for oncoming vehicles in another lane and was more likely to disengage than steer
or vehicles crossing the road far ahead. outside the lane. The S90 stayed in the lane
“The braking events we observed didn’t in 9 of 17 runs and crossed the lane line in
create unsafe conditions because the decel- eight runs.
erations were mild and short enough that When trying out new vehicles in hilly
the vehicle didn’t slow too much. However, Central Virginia, home to the VRC, engi-
unnecessary braking could pose crash risks neers noted early on that advanced driver
in heavy traffic, especially if it’s more force- assistance systems that rely on seeing road
ful,” Jermakian says. markings to keep vehicles in their lanes
“Plus, drivers who feel that their car were sometimes flummoxed by hills. As a
brakes erratically may choose not to use vehicle crests a hill, the lane markers on the
adaptive cruise control and would miss out road beyond are obscured.
on any safety benefit from the system.” For the on-road tests, engineers mapped
The outlook is promising for the poten- out a course that included three hills with
tial safety benefits of ACC. The technolo- different slopes. Drivers made six trial runs
gy is often bundled with forward collision on each hill in each vehicle.
warning and autobrake, and research by The E-Class stayed in its lane in 15 of 18
IIHS and HLDI has found crash-reduction trials and on the line in one trial, contin-
benefits for these systems combined. A fed- uously providing steering support without
erally sponsored study found that driv- erratic moves when lane lines weren’t visi-
ers using ACC have longer, safer following ble. The Model 3 also stayed in the lane in
distances than drivers who don’t use ACC. all but one trial, when it hugged the line.
Still, IIHS tests indicate that current ACC In contrast, the 5-series, Model S and S90
systems aren’t ready to handle speed con- struggled. The 5-series steered toward or
trol in all traffic situations. across the lane line regularly, requiring driv-
ers to override the steering support to get
IIHS can’t say yet which company has the Active lane-keeping it back on track. Sometimes the car disen-
safest implementation of Level 2 driver Engineers focused on two situations that gaged steering assistance on its own. The car
assistance, but it is important to note challenge active lane-keeping systems — failed to stay in the lane on all 14 valid trials.
that none of these vehicles are capable of curves and hills — in tests on open roads The Model S was errant in the hill tests,
driving safely on their own. A production with no other vehicles around. They also ob- staying in the lane in 5 of 18 trials. When
autonomous vehicle that can go anywhere, served how the systems performed in traffic. cresting hills, the Model S swerved left and
anytime isn’t available at the local car All five systems provide steering assis- right until it determined the correct place
dealer and won’t be for quite some time. tance that centers the vehicle within clearly in the lane, jolting test drivers. It rarely
marked lanes. They also may use a lead ve- warned them to take over as it hunted for
failed to respond to stopped vehicles ahead. hicle as a guide when traveling at lower the lane center. The car regularly veered
Jermakian recounts her experience with speeds or when the lead vehicle is blocking into the adjacent lanes or onto the shoulder.
the E-Class on U.S. 33 near the IIHS-HLDI the system’s view of the lane markers ahead. When drivers intervened to avoid poten-
Vehicle Research Center (VRC). Traveling To test active lane-keeping on curves, en- tial trouble, the active lane-keeping system
about 55 mph with ACC and active lane- gineers conducted six trials with each vehi- disengaged. Steering assistance only re-
keeping engaged but not following a lead cle on three different sections of road with sumed after drivers re-engaged Autopilot.
vehicle, the E-Class system briefly detect- radii ranging from 1,300 to 2,000 feet. The S90 stayed in the lane in 9 of 16
ed a pickup truck stopped at a traffic light Only the Model 3 stayed within the lane trials. The car crossed the lane line in two
ahead but promptly lost sight of it and con- on all 18 trials. The Model S was similar but trials and in four trials disengaged steer-
tinued at speed until she hit the brakes. overcorrected on one curve, causing it to ing assistance when it crested hills but

4 | Status Report — Vol. 53, No.4


automatically re-engaged when the system
once again detected the markings.
One issue drivers noted among some of
Fatal Tesla crash highlights
the vehicles was a propensity to follow a
lead vehicle into the exit lane in slow-mov-
ing traffic, even though the driver intended
risks of partial automation
T
to stay the course. When a car is traveling he deadly crash of a Tesla Model X on out, the SUV began a left steering move-
too slow to track lane lines, active lane- a Mountain View, Calif., highway in ment into the paved gore area dividing the
keeping systems use the vehicle in front as March demonstrates the operational main travel lane from an exit ramp. At 4
a guide. If the lead vehicle exits, the trailing limits of advanced driver assistance systems seconds out, the Tesla was no longer fol-
car might, too. and the perils of trusting them to do all of lowing the lead vehicle. At 3 seconds out,
The evidence for safety benefits of active the driving, even though they can’t. the SUV accelerated from 62 mph to 70.8
lane-keeping systems isn’t as pronounced
as for ACC. Still, the potential to prevent
crashes and save lives is large. IIHS re-
search shows that preventing lane-depar-
ture crashes could save nearly 8,000 lives in
a typical year (see Status Report, May 20,
2010). Lane-departure warning systems
are associated with an 11 percent reduc-
tion in the rates of single-vehicle, side-
swipe and head-on crashes of all severities
and a 21 percent reduction in the rates of
injury crashes of the same types (see Status
Report, Aug. 23, 2017).

More research before ratings


IIHS continues to run track and on-road
tests as it moves toward a consumer rating
system for advanced driver assistance sys-
tems. Apart from questions about whether
the systems perform as drivers expect,
one of the many factors to consider is how
much of the driving task can safely be
handed over to technology without drivers
checking out altogether?
Photo courtesy of S. Engleman
“Designers are struggling with trade-
offs inherent in automated assistance,” says The driver, Walter Huang, had used the A Tesla Model X struck a barrier in Mountain
David Zuby, IIHS chief research officer. “If “Autopilot” feature continuously in the View, Calif., on U.S. Highway 101 where lanes
they limit functionality to keep drivers en- final 18 minutes and 55 seconds before his diverge. The driver had used “Autopilot” for
gaged, they risk a backlash that the systems car crashed into a highway divider, the Na- nearly 19 minutes before his fatal crash.
are too rudimentary. If the systems seem tional Transportation Safety Board (NTSB)
too capable, then drivers may not give them stated in its preliminary report. mph before slamming into the barrier at
the attention required to use them safely.” The system gave Huang two visual alerts about 71 mph. The Model X rotated coun-
Real-world crashes involving vehicles and one auditory alert to place his hands on terclockwise, collided with two other cars
with Level 2 automation demonstrate the the wheel during this period. In the final 6 and caught fire. Huang died of his injuries.
matter isn’t settled. seconds before impact, his hands weren’t The circumstances are similar to a Sep-
“We’re not ready to say yet which compa- detected on the wheel, and the Tesla didn’t tember 2017 single-vehicle crash in Hay-
ny has the safest implementation of Level make any emergency braking or steering ward, Calif., involving a Model S operating
2 driver assistance, but it’s important to maneuvers to avert the crash. on Autopilot. The car struck a lane-sepa-
note that none of these vehicles is capable The Model X had been following a lead rating divider on U.S. Highway 92 and sus-
of driving safely on its own,” Zuby says. “A vehicle and traveling in the second lane tained damage similar to what occurs in
production autonomous vehicle that can from the left at about 65 mph 8 seconds the IIHS passenger-side small overlap front
go anywhere, anytime isn’t available at your before the crash, the NTSB report states. crash test. The driver was uninjured.
local car dealer and won’t be for quite some Traffic-Aware Cruise Control was set to 75 IIHS test drives of the Model S on public
time. We aren’t there yet.” n mph on the 65-mph highway. At 7 seconds roads suggest Autopilot may be confused »

August 7, 2018 |5
Photo by Florida Highway Patrol investigators

The first fatal crash in the U.S. of a Tesla in “Autopilot” mode occurred in Florida in May 2016.
Neither the Model S (above) nor the driver braked for a tractor-trailer crossing the car’s path.
Several other Tesla crashes have made headlines, including one in Laguna Beach, Calif. (right).

(« from p. 5) by lane markings and road at-grade intersections.


seams where the highway splits. Some systems can “read” speed limit
David Aylor, IIHS manager of active signs and adjust speeds accordingly, but
safety testing, has logged many miles in they aren’t programmed to respond to traf-
a Model S in Autopilot mode. He has ob- fic signals. While all Level 2 systems con-
served instances in which the car lost track trol speed in free-flowing traffic, they vary
of lane markings and began to drift or even in their ability to slow or stop smoothly prior to the collision,” the South Jordan
attempt to run off the road before he inter- when encountering much-slower moving Police Department said in a statement.
vened. The car has crossed lines without or stopped traffic. Police Sergeant Samuel Winkler added
warning the driver to take over. Other manufacturers’ Level 2 vehicles this caution: “As a reminder for drivers of
Aylor points to one YouTube video by a likely have been involved in crashes while semi-autonomous vehicles, it is the driver’s
Chicago area driver who filmed himself on drivers were using advanced driver as- responsibility to stay alert, drive safely, and
a freeway in a Model S with Autopilot en- sistance features, but none of them have be in control of the vehicle at all times.”
gaged. The driver abruptly drops his phone grabbed headlines like Tesla. It is good advice for any driver, but es-
as his car is about to plow into a median Since the first fatal crash of a Tesla oper- pecially one who may be lulled into a false
barrier as the roadway splits, just as the ating on Autopilot in Florida in May 2016, sense of security by automated systems that
freeway does in the Mountain View crash. in which a Model S struck a tractor-trailer appear to handle parts of the driving task
“For human drivers, road splits like these turning into the car’s path, there have been with ease but can quit at any moment.
can be tricky to maneuver,” Aylor says. “In several other high-profile Tesla crashes. On May 29, a Tesla operating in Auto-
this case, Autopilot was controlling the ve- In a May crash in Utah, a Model S driver pilot mode struck a parked police depart-
hicle and it proved no better at avoiding the reportedly ran a red light and struck the ment SUV on Laguna Canyon Road in
same mistakes human drivers might make.” back of a firetruck without slowing down. Laguna Beach, Calif. The Tesla driver sus-
IIHS engineers have observed simi- The driver, who sustained a broken tained minor injuries, local police reported.
lar issues with Level 2 systems from other ankle, told police that “she had been using The crash occurred in a marked exit lane
manufacturers. These systems are intended the ‘Autopilot’ feature in the Tesla” and “ad- where vehicles also park. Confusing lane
for use on limited-access highways with no mitted that she was looking at her phone markings may have come into play. n

6 | Status Report — Vol. 53, No.4


Fewer physical damage, injury liability
claims for Model S with advanced features
T
he combined crash avoidance fea-
tures on the Tesla Model S are reduc-
ing third-party physical damage and
injury liability claims, while the benefit of
adding “Autopilot” is limited to lowering
collision claims.
HLDI compared the claims experience of
2014–16 Model S cars equipped with ver-
sion 1 of Tesla’s sensing hardware with the
2012–14 Model S sans the technology. An-
alysts also examined Model S claims before
and after Autopilot was enabled to try to
isolate the incremental effects of the system
and its related features. Estimated effect on claim frequency
Version 1 hardware supports forward col- of Tesla Model S driver assistance
lision warning, automatic emergency brak- technology enabled by hardware
ing and blind spot warning. It also supports version 1, including ‘Autopilot’
Autopilot and its associated features, Au- 100%
topark, Autosteer, Lane Assist and Lane
80%
Change. These require an optional upgrade. statistically significant
The combined driver assistance fea- 60%
tures on the 2014–16 Model S lowered the 40%
frequency of claims filed under proper-
20%
ty damage liability (PDL) coverage by 11
percent and the frequency of claims under 0%
bodily injury (BI) liability coverage by 21 -20%
percent, compared with the 2012–14 Model
-40%
S without the technology, HLDI found. collision PDL BIL MedPay PIP
PDL coverage pays for damage that an
at-fault driver causes to another vehicle.
BI pays for injuries that an at-fault driver years for physical damage claims. An in- Tesla activated the software for Traffic-
causes to occupants of other vehicles or sured vehicle year is one vehicle insured Aware Cruise Control, forward collision
others on the road. for one year or two vehicles insured for six warning and automatic high beams for
Looking at first-party injury coverage months each. models with version 1 hardware, starting
types, HLDI found a 29 percent increase in HLDI didn’t find a significant effect on in January 2015. Autobrake and blind spot
the frequency of claims under medical pay- the frequency of collision claims for the warning were activated in March 2015, fol-
ment (Medpay) coverage and a 39 percent combined driver assistance features. Colli- lowed by Autopilot and its associated sys-
increase in the frequency of personal injury sion coverage pays for damage to a driver’s tems in October 2015.
protection (PIP) claims. vehicle if he or she is at fault in a crash. Tesla touts Autopilot as a safety upgrade,
MedPay covers injuries to an at-fault The findings for PDL, BI and collision so HLDI analysts were eager to zero in on
driver or passengers in that driver’s vehicle, claims are in line with prior HLDI research the benefits of it alone. However, several
while PIP coverage is sold in states with no- on forward collision warning, autobrake things limited their ability to conduct a
fault insurance systems. This coverage pays and blind spot monitoring. For MedPay comprehensive analysis.
for injuries to occupants of the insured ve- and PIP, it is unclear why the driver assis- Since Autopilot is an optional feature,
hicle, no matter who is at fault. tance technologies are associated with in- analysts couldn’t discern which vehicles
Claim frequency is the number of claims creased claim frequency. had Autopilot and whether it — and other
for a group of vehicles divided by the expo- One hallmark of Tesla models is the abil- available driver assistance features — was
sure for that group, expressed in the study ity to wirelessly receive software updates to on at the time of the crash. The limita-
as claims per 1,000 insured vehicle years for enable driver assistance and other features tion forced HLDI to compare losses for the
injury claims and per 100 insured vehicle if equipped with the needed hardware. Model S with hardware version 1 before »

August 7, 2018 |7
(« from p. 7) and after Autopilot was en-
abled instead of comparing vehicles with
and without the system over a specific time
Fatal Uber crash shows risks
frame. The pre-Autopilot period includ-
ed only the nine months of data after Tesla
activated forward collision warning and
of testing on public roads
S
before it enabled Autopilot. elf-driving cars are supposed to the dash cam video. The operator told in-
In this limited analysis, HLDI found that be better at averting crashes than vestigators that she had been monitoring
the frequency of claims filed under PDL, human drivers, but tests of proto- the system interface in the center console.
BI, MedPay and PIP didn’t change once type vehicles on public roads so far indi- Tempe police in June released a report in-
Autopilot was enabled, but the frequency cate that they aren’t always up to the task. dicating that the operator’s smartphone
of collision claims fell by 13 percent. Absent regulatory oversight, the race to was streaming a TV show in the 42 min-
“To get a better picture of how Autopi- deploy autonomous vehicles risks jeopar- utes preceding the crash.
lot is affecting claims, we need more data dizing public trust and safety and the life- The NTSB report indicates that the Uber
on how many Teslas are equipped with Au- saving promise of the technology. self-driving system first detected Herz-
topilot and how often it is used,” says Matt The National Transportation Safety berg about 6 seconds before impact, ini-
Moore, HLDI’s senior vice president. “The Board (NTSB) on May 24 issued a four- tially classifying her as an unknown object,
reductions in the frequency of third-party page preliminary report on the first fatal then a vehicle and then as a bicycle. At 1.3
crash involving a pedestrian and a self- seconds before impact, the report states,
driving vehicle operating under the control the system “determined that an emergency
of a computer, not a person. braking maneuver was needed to mitigate a
Until the March 18 tragedy, Uber Tech- collision.” Less than a second before impact,
nologies Inc. had done extensive testing the test operator took the wheel and started
of its fleet of prototype autonomous vehi- to brake just after hitting Herzberg.
cles in Arizona. That testing has since been The Uber self-driving system was operat-
shelved in the state. ing normally at the time of the crash, with
The details of the March 18 crash in no faults or diagnostic messages.
Tempe, Arizona, are by now well-known. “What’s chilling is that the engineers
What wasn’t known publicly until the behind Uber’s software program disabled
NTSB report’s release, however, is that the system’s ability to avoid a life-or-death
while an Uber experimental vehicle op- scenario while testing on public roads,” says
erating in self-driving mode is capable of David Zuby, the Institute’s chief research
detecting impending conflicts, it isn’t pro- officer. “Uber decided to forgo a safety net
grammed to brake or warn the test opera- in its quest to teach an unproven computer-
tor to take action. control system how to drive.”
“According to Uber, emergency braking
maneuvers are not enabled while the ve- Autobrake with pedestrian detection
hicle is under computer control, to reduce Institute staff have logged more than
the potential for erratic vehicle behavior,” 80,000 combined highway miles behind
the NTSB report states. “The vehicle op- the wheels of cars and SUVs equipped with
erator is relied on to intervene and take advanced driver assistance technologies to
action. The system is not designed to alert gauge the performance and quirks of each
the operator.” system and how drivers interact with and
physical damage and injury liability claims Elaine Herzberg, 49, was walking her bi- view them (see Status Report, March 29,
associated with Tesla’s version 1 hardware cycle across a four-lane arterial road around 2018, and Nov. 10, 2016, at iihs.org).
are in line with the benefits HLDI has doc- 10 p.m. when she was struck by a 2017 Volvo For the past several years, IIHS and
umented for comparable systems from XC90 modified with Uber’s sensors and HLDI researchers have studied the crash
other manufacturers.” software to operate in autonomous mode. avoidance technologies that are the precur-
Moore adds, “When we evaluated Teslas Herzberg had crossed more than three lanes sors of autonomous driving systems, ana-
with the version 1 hardware after the Au- before she was struck by the SUV at about lyzing data in insurance claims and police
topilot software was deployed, we saw a 39 mph. Dash cam video released by Tempe reports and conducting test track, on-road
significant reduction in collision claim fre- police shows Herzberg didn’t look in the and lab evaluations (see Status Report, Feb.
quency but no other changes.” SUV’s direction until just before it hit her. 22, 2018, Aug. 23, 2017, June 22, 2017, Nov.
For a copy of HLDI Bulletin Vol. 34 No. In the Uber, the lone test operator at the 17, 2016, and Nov. 10, 2016).
30, “Tesla Model S driver assistance tech- wheel wasn’t watching the road just before The XC90 is among the vehicles IIHS re-
nologies,” email publications@iihs.org. n impact, according to the NTSB report and searchers have tested.

8 | Status Report — Vol. 53, No.4


Object
detected
as bicycle

Photo courtesy of the National Transportation Safety Board

At 1.3 seconds before impact, Uber’s system


determined that emergency braking was
needed but took no action, the NTSB found.

prevention. IIHS doesn’t yet rate autobrake


systems for pedestrian detection but has
done extensive research tests. In 35 mph
track tests of an XC90, the Volvo system
proved extremely capable of avoiding hit-
ting a pedestrian.
Photo courtesy of the National Transportation Safety Board
Euro NCAP gave the same pedestrian de-
The model involved in the Uber crash opportunity to intervene or even alert the tection system on a 2017 XC60 high marks
was equipped with Volvo’s automatic emer- test driver,” Zuby says. for its ability to completely avoid collisions
gency braking and pedestrian detection The NTSB report states that “All these with pedestrians at speeds up to about 37
system designed to prevent or mitigate pe- Volvo functions are disabled when the test mph. And a test in the U.K. by Thatcham
destrian crashes. On conventional Volvos, vehicle is operated in computer control but indicates that Volvo’s system is capable of
the default is always “on” for the technology. are operational when the vehicle is operated braking for a pedestrian walking a bicycle
“The crash avoidance system on the in manual control.” across the vehicle’s path in the dark.
XC90 would have prevented or mitigat- In IIHS tests, the XC90 earns the high- Braking when the Uber’s sensors first de-
ed this crash, but it was never given the est rating of superior for front crash tected something in the road would have »

Why good headlights matter Volvo XC90

The ability for drivers to see the road ahead at be in almost total darkness. The pedestrian
night — and other drivers and pedestrians to was wearing dark clothes, and the bicycle she
see oncoming vehicles, too — is an important was pushing didn’t have side reflectors. There
area of IIHS research that may have come into are streetlights along this section of road, but
play in Tempe. the crash site wasn’t directly illuminated.
About half of traffic deaths occur either in According to the NTSB preliminary report,
the dark or at dawn or dusk, and the propor- Uber’s lidar and radar first detected Herzberg extra time to see the pedestrian and act to
tion of pedestrians killed in low light condi- 6 seconds before impact but didn’t know what avoid the crash or lessen its severity.
tions is even greater. It is crucial that drivers, to make of her. It is possible that with better Crash reports don’t indicate whether the
whether human or machine, have a good view lighting the cameras could have helped con- XC90’s low beams or high beams were in use.
of the road at night to drive safely. That is the firm she was a pedestrian. The SUV has high-beam assist, which auto-
role of headlights, especially on roads without Velodyne Lidar Inc., which supplies the sen- matically switches between high beams and
street lighting. sors Uber uses, says lidar was capable of low beams, depending on the presence of
The Uber that struck and killed Elaine Her- detecting a pedestrian with a bicycle, but deci- other vehicles. Research shows drivers rarely
zberg had a variety of sensors to help it “see” sions about whether to brake or take evasive turn on their high beams. High-beam assist
the road and its surroundings. These includ- action were left to Uber’s software. ensures that they do.
ed light detection and ranging (lidar) sensors, The crash involved a specially outfitted 2017 “Headlights probably don’t come to mind
radar sensors and cameras. While lidar and Volvo XC90. Its headlights are rated poor be- when you think of autonomous vehicles, but
radar sensors don’t depend on ambient light cause they don’t provide sufficient low-beam they are important safety equipment, and we
to see, cameras, like human eyes, do. light in IIHS evaluations. Good-rated headlights intend to continue our evaluations to encour-
The high-contrast video recorded by the would have illuminated twice as much of the age automakers to improve them,” IIHS Presi-
Uber dash camera makes the road appear to road ahead for an attentive driver. That means dent David Harkey says. n

August 7, 2018 |9
(« from p. 9) given the system more time to
identify Herzberg as a pedestrian and Her-
zberg more time to finish crossing the road.
Lax U.S. oversight of industry
“At 6 seconds out, the automated driv-
ing system had a range of choices it could
make,” Zuby says. “Just like humans might
jeopardizes public safety
A
ignore something unexpected and unclear patchwork of state laws and volun- At the same time, an industry coalition
moving toward their path, Uber’s system tary federal guidelines is attempt- of automakers, suppliers, tech firms and
didn’t react despite sophisticated sensors ing to cover the testing and eventual other groups is urging swift passage of the
and artificial intelligence. That’s unaccept- deployment of autonomous vehicles in the bill in the name of safety and mobility.
able. To be better than human drivers, auto- U.S. It is a decidedly pro-technology ap-
mated systems have to make safer choices.” proach that lacks adequate safeguards to States forge ahead
protect other road users. As of August, 31 states and the District of
According to Uber, emergency braking ma- “We don’t want to hamstring the devel- Columbia have enacted legislation or taken
neuvers are not enabled while the vehicle opment of autonomous vehicles but do executive action on driving automation. The
is under computer control, to reduce the want to ensure that all motorists, bicyclists laws in 11 of those states authorize a study,
potential for erratic vehicle behavior, the and pedestrians sharing the road are pro- define key terms or authorize funding.
NTSB report states. The vehicle operator is tected,” says David Harkey, IIHS president. Nine states authorize testing, while 11
relied on to intervene and take action. “The industry needs to take precau- states and D.C. authorize full deployment.
tions when operating experimental vehi- Some states impose substantial restric-
Deadly inattention cles on public roads and should share data tions on operators developing, testing and
In lieu of intervention from an autobrake on crashes, near-crashes and system disen- deploying driverless cars on public roads,
system with pedestrian detection, an alert gagements with the public,” Harkey says. while others welcome testing and deploy-
human driver may have been able to slow Beyond issuing policy guidelines (see ment with little legislative or regulatory
down the vehicle enough to reduce the se- Status Report Nov. 10, 2016, at iihs.org), the burden/impediment.
verity of the crash. National Highway Traffic Safety Adminis- For example, four states require the oper-
In the dash cam video, the pedestri- tration (NHTSA) hasn’t attempted to regu- ator to carry at least $5 million in insurance
an appears about 80 feet before impact. A late self-driving vehicles. At the time of this or surety bond while testing or deploying
best-case driver reaction time is about one writing, legislation that would set parame- automated vehicles on public roads. Six
second. At 40 mph the XC90 would have ters on their development, testing and de- states and D.C. authorize testing or deploy-
traveled 60 feet before the driver initiated ployment was stalled in Congress. ment without imposing any special finan-
braking at 20 feet, reducing the SUV’s speed The U.S. House of Representatives passed cial requirements.
by roughly 10 mph and the impact speed to the SELF DRIVE Act in September 2017, California, Connecticut, Massachusetts,
30 mph. The driver still would have struck but the Senate version, dubbed the AV Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania
the pedestrian, but the reduced speed may START Act, is on hold. The act would pre- and Washington require operators to share
have raised her chances of survival. empt state laws on autonomous vehicles and a safety plan or assessment and/or some
The video shows the Uber operator look- drastically lift caps on the number of vehi- level of data, such as disengagement reports
ing down approximately 9½ seconds of the cles sold each year that can be exempt from or incident records, with the state regulator.
12½-second video. At 40 mph, the SUV federal safety standards. California, Nevada and Pennsylvania also
covered 750 feet during that short period. A broad coalition of consumer and safety require a testing permit, while New York re-
The driver was distracted for all of the last advocates has appealed to Senate leaders quires testing under state police supervision.
5½ seconds, or 330 feet, before impact. not to advance the bill until the National Laws allowing the operation of auto-
Experimental studies have shown that Transportation Safety Board completes its mated vehicles initially required a human
drivers can lose track of what automat- investigations of recent fatal crashes. They operator to be present and capable of
ed systems are doing, fail to notice when say the bill lacks comprehensive safeguards, taking over in an emergency. However, 12
something goes wrong and have trouble sufficient government oversight and indus- states — Arizona, California and Mich-
retaking control. Some companies require try accountability. igan among them — allow testing or de-
two operators in autonomous vehicles un- The coalition calls for the bill to limit the ployment without a human operator in
dergoing testing on public roads. Uber had size and scope of exemptions from federal the vehicle, although some limit it to cer-
used two operators in earlier road tests but safety standards, provide for adequate data tain defined conditions. Nine states don’t
had recently scaled back to one. collection and consumer information, apply always require an operator to be licensed.
“Looking at the center stack takes the op- safety critical provisions to Level 2 systems,
erator’s eyes off the road,” Zuby points out. boost funding for NHTSA, ensure access Crash data should be public
“Two operators in the vehicle might have al- and safety for people with disabilities, and IIHS has encouraged regulators to re-
lowed one to monitor the system computer maintain state and local regulations absent quire companies to share information
and the other to focus on the road ahead.” n federal rules on automated vehicles. about every crash and disengagement of

10 | Status Report — Vol. 53, No.4


an automated driving system that occurs State laws on the operation of automated vehicles on public roads
during testing on public roads.
IIHS has called on states to advise com-
panies to share this information for every
crash involving a vehicle with driving au-
tomation when operating in manual mode
or automated mode, regardless of severity,
and to publicly share the collected data.
“While disengagements of automated
driving systems are not as safety-relevant as
crashes, they can provide key information
concerning the performance and limita- ■ deployment
tions of the technology,” IIHS told the Penn- ■ testing
sylvania Department of Transportation. ■ no deployment or testing law
As fully autonomous vehicles deploy,
knowing which ones are equipped with
automated technology — and which are
exempt from federal safety standards —will
help policymakers, insurers and research- Some states impose substantial restrictions on operators developing, testing and
ers understand the safety impact. deploying driverless cars on public roads. Others welcome them with few restrictions.
To that end, IIHS strongly advises
NHTSA to create and maintain a nation- for self-driving vehicles. Currently, NHTSA ensure that automated driving is safe for all
wide public database of vehicles with au- grants exemptions on a case-by-case basis. road users. Recording vehicle data is one
tomated driving systems and those exempt For example, by law all passenger vehi- area that needs to be addressed.
from safety standards that is indexed and cles must have manual driver controls, but IIHS has asked the agency to require
searchable by vehicle identification number what happens when human drivers are no event data recorders to encode information
(VIN). Currently, VINs aren’t required to longer needed to operate vehicles? on the performance of automated driving
encode information about optional crash General Motors, for one, hopes to ditch systems in the moments before, during and
avoidance and automation features. the steering wheel and brake and accelerator after a crash. This information would help
pedals in a self-driving Cruise AV to test in determine whether the human driver or
New regulations needed a ride-sharing fleet. GM petitioned NHTSA vehicle was in control and the actions each
So far, NHTSA has focused on remov- to exempt up to 2,500 of these electric cars entity took prior to the event.
ing regulatory barriers to enable automat- from more than a dozen safety standards, In addition, autonomous vehicles should
ed driving. The AV Start Act as proposed including the manual control requirements. be programmed to take themselves out of
would require the agency to update the hu- As it weighs which regulations to amend, service when the status of critical vehicle
man-specific safety standards to account NHTSA also should consider new ones to systems can’t support a safe trip. n

August 7, 2018 | 11
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
Highway Loss Data Institute

Status Report
SPECIAL ISSUE: AUTONOMOUS VEHICLES IIHS is an independent, nonprofit scientific and educational organization dedicated to reducing the losses — deaths, injuries and
property damage — from motor vehicle crashes.
IIHS tests will shape ratings program
HLDI shares and supports this mission through scientific studies of insurance data representing the human and economic losses
for advanced driver assistance features 42 resulting from the ownership and operation of different types of vehicles and by publishing insurance loss results by vehicle make
and model.
Tesla crash highlights risks
of partial automation45 Both organizations are wholly supported by the following auto insurers and funding associations:

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self-driving vehicles on public roads 48 Alfa Insurance MMG Insurance
Allstate Insurance Group Munich Reinsurance America, Inc.
Better headlights may have helped American Agricultural Insurance Company Mutual Benefit Group
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American National Nationwide
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Amica Mutual Insurance Company NYCM Insurance
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