A new study from Carnegie Mellon College of Engineering highlights that the current crop of active safety systems for new cars such as autonomous braking and blind spot monitoring are already sufficient to prevent as many as 10 000 fatal road accidents a year just in the US.
Concerns about the reliability of semi-autonomous driving technologies has been in the headlines in recent weeks thanks to an accident involving a Tesla Model S with its autopilot function activated. The accident, which caused the death of driver Joshua Brown led to calls for the authorities to move with caution when it comes to deciding laws and regulations regarding the widespread introduction of such technologies.
However, according to a new study from Carnegie Mellon College of Engineering, we should be hitting the accelerator instead and getting the current crop of active safety and semi-autonomous vehicular tech on as many cars as possible, as soon as possible.
"We have demonstrated that even with partial automation there are financial and safety benefits," said Chris T. Hendrickson, director of the Carnegie Mellon Traffic21 Institute.
Hendrickson, alongside Constantine Samaras, professors of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and Ph.D. student Corey Harper, authored the paper "Cost and Benefit Estimates of Partially-Automated Vehicle Collision Avoidance Technologies."
It shows the current crop of systems such as forward collision warning, lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring and autonomous braking could prevent altogether or reduce the severity of 1.3 million crashes a year, including 10,100 fatal wrecks on US roads.
"We are seeing that partial automation is accomplishing crash and crash severity reductions, and we expect that to improve," said Hendrickson.
An investment for the future
These systems are becoming increasingly available on mass-market cars but often at a sizable premium, and part of the Carnegie Mellon study was to understand if even at today's price points it's an investment worth making.
"If you bought a car right now with these safety systems at the current prices offered by auto manufacturers, both you and society would have a positive economic benefit," said Hendrickson.
If cars aren't involved in accidents, there are no insurance claims and the vehicles themselves stay on the road longer. For example if the systems only mitigated accidents involving blind spots and lane departure, there could be a combined saving of $4 billion a year in terms of crash costs and drivers would actually see a $20 yearly saving.