Traffic-Death Report Confirms Role Of Automated-Driving Features In Decline

Last updated: 10-26-2019

Read original article here

Traffic-Death Report Confirms Role Of Automated-Driving Features In Decline

report about the trend and also put a federal imprimatur on my speculation at the time – that automated-driving features including adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warnings and drowsiness monitoring have helped make human-controlled driving significantly safer even as various forces are making it seem like a foregone conclusion that someday we simply won’t be able to drive our own cars.

The impact of such features, as I noted in August, is spreading not only because the technology per se is getting better but also because such systems increasingly are being included even in mainstream-priced models and increasingly arriving even as standard equipment. It amounts to one of the most welcome developments in the highway-traffic-safety realm in years.

The latest NHTSA statistics further dimensionalize the gains in traffic safety by reporting that alcohol-related driving fatalities fell by 3.6 percent last year over 2017, while speeding-related deaths declined by 5.7 percent.

Automated-driving features also clearly are helping to blunt the negative impact of what experts determined has been the biggest scourge in car safety over the last several years: distracted driving. Crashes involving distracted driving killed 2,841 people last year, down 12.4 percent from the year before, NHTSA found. It isn’t yet clear whether the decline results from an actual decline in distracted driving that might be due to the proliferation of marketing campaigns and public-safety messages over the last several years about texting while driving, for example – or whether distracted driving now is killing fewer people because of the counteracting performance of the automated-safety features that largely are aimed at helping drivers avoid or minimize accidents when they become distracted and fail to drive safely.

In any event, a dive into the NHTSA data also suggests that, while making automobiles safer to drive for their occupants, traversing a car-dominated traffic infrastructure has been growing more dangerous for those outside the vehicles. Pedestrian deaths in 2018 rose by 3.4 percent from 2017, to 6,283 people, while the number of cyclists killed climbed by 6.3 percent, to 857.

The latest U.S. traffic-death figures may augur a significant new dynamic for the industry as policymakers, car companies, digital-tech titans and others attempt to drive consumers headlong into an era of autonomous driving. The strong performance of existing technology features designed to help people drive their own cars better could be undermining the biggest rationale for driverless cars: improving safety for vehicle occupants.

The federal government just released figures showing that U.S. traffic fatalities declined for the second consecutive year in 2018, down to 36,560 people on U.S. roadways, a 2.4-percent decline from 2017, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced this week. This followed a 0.9-percent decrease in 2017 from 2016.

In even better news, NHTSA reported that the safer-driving bandwagon has picked up even more momentum in 2019, with the estimated number of fatalities in the first half of the year declining by 3.4 percent from the same period of 2018. That translated to an estimated first-half fatality rate of 1.06, the agency said, representing the lowest first-half level since 2015. The estimates for the second quarter of 2019 represent the seventh consecutive year-over-year-quarterly decline in fatalities, starting in the last quarter of 2017, NHTSA said.

What’s more, American drivers and vehicles have been performing better in what may be a truer measure of actual safety levels than the absolute number of deaths. The fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled – which factors out vagaries such as how the actual amount of driving affects fatality rates – also decreased in 2018, by 3.4 percent, to the lowest fatality rate since 2014.

The NHTSA data release confirmed my August report about the trend and also put a federal imprimatur on my speculation at the time – that automated-driving features including adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warnings and drowsiness monitoring have helped make human-controlled driving significantly safer even as various forces are making it seem like a foregone conclusion that someday we simply won’t be able to drive our own cars.

The impact of such features, as I noted in August, is spreading not only because the technology per se is getting better but also because such systems increasingly are being included even in mainstream-priced models and increasingly arriving even as standard equipment. It amounts to one of the most welcome developments in the highway-traffic-safety realm in years.

The latest NHTSA statistics further dimensionalize the gains in traffic safety by reporting that alcohol-related driving fatalities fell by 3.6 percent last year over 2017, while speeding-related deaths declined by 5.7 percent.

Automated-driving features also clearly are helping to blunt the negative impact of what experts determined has been the biggest scourge in car safety over the last several years: distracted driving. Crashes involving distracted driving killed 2,841 people last year, down 12.4 percent from the year before, NHTSA found. It isn’t yet clear whether the decline results from an actual decline in distracted driving that might be due to the proliferation of marketing campaigns and public-safety messages over the last several years about texting while driving, for example – or whether distracted driving now is killing fewer people because of the counteracting performance of the automated-safety features that largely are aimed at helping drivers avoid or minimize accidents when they become distracted and fail to drive safely.

In any event, a dive into the NHTSA data also suggests that, while making automobiles safer to drive for their occupants, traversing a car-dominated traffic infrastructure has been growing more dangerous for those outside the vehicles. Pedestrian deaths in 2018 rose by 3.4 percent from 2017, to 6,283 people, while the number of cyclists killed climbed by 6.3 percent, to 857.


Read the rest of this article here