Report examines how increasing automation could affect road safety

11.51 | 25 May 2018 | | 5 comments

Claims that self-driving cars could cut road deaths by 90%, as a result of eliminating crashes linked to human error, are ‘untested’ – according to a new report.

The International Transport Forum (ITF) report, published on 23 May, examines how the increasing automation of cars and trucks could impact on road safety.

The report concludes that it is ‘likely’ that the number of road casualties will decrease with
automation, while self-driving cars ‘promise more safety by eliminating crashes linked to human error’.

However, the report says crashes ‘will not disappear’ and that shared responsibility between robot and human drivers could, in reality, lead to more complex driving decisions – with the unintended consequences of making driving ‘less safe’.

An an example, the report cites circumstances in which a driver has to take control of an autonomous vehicle in an emergency situation.

The ITF report also suggests that connected cars will be vulnerable to cybersecurity risks, warning that ‘the avoidance of crashes should never depend on access to shared external communication channels alone’.

It recommends designing automated vehicles so that safety-critical systems are functionally independent and cannot fail in case of connectivity issues.

The report also says that automation makes it ‘more urgent’ to adopt a Safe System approach which organises all elements of road traffic so that when one safety mechanism fails, another steps in to prevent a crash. The authors argue that applying this approach to automated driving ‘means the traffic system will account for machine errors’.


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    I thought they were already amongst us Pat, or soon will be if the press and the government are to be believed. Their track record is not great so far, having fatal collisions which mere humans should have avoided..not a great start.

    Hugh Jones
    Agree (0) | Disagree (1)

    Relax Hugh
    It is well over 50 years since the concept of the flying car for commuting has been around. There have been notable specific vehicles but flying cars have not become mainstream yet and are unlikely to achieve that for a while to come. Equally, Level 4 and 5 truly autonomous vehicles are highly unlikely be mainstreaming in our lifetimes despite all the hype and enthusiasm around. About as likely as the paperless office – that’s just a joke for 99% of us.

    p.s. just how are autonomous vehicles going to deal with two way narrow country lanes less than 5.5 metres wide? – we have lots of those.

    Pat, Wales
    Agree (5) | Disagree (0)

    “…will make the final decision in favour of protecting those inside the vehicle rather than those outside.” So, still falling short of what human drivers could do then? It makes me shudder that the people behind these autonomous vehicles think this is an acceptable standard of ‘safety’.

    Hugh Jones
    Agree (4) | Disagree (3)

    As I am sure m worthinton is aware Mercedes have been very open and up front for a long time to say that when every technological mechanism has been deployed and a crash is still unavoidable and no other option remains, the technology will make the final decision in favour of protecting those inside the vehicle rather than those outside.
    Merecedes and perhaps others are being transparently honest, but there are many campaigners that find pragmatic decisions like this unpalatable . However I don’t see any rush of governments ready to condemn this ultimate choice.

    Pat, Wales
    Agree (4) | Disagree (1)

    Only one of the problems we have, as have Mercedes and probably most other manufacturers is that the decision has to be made as to whether they the manufacturer will at all costs protect the driver and those within the car and plough into the pedestrians, or cyclists or motorcyclist etc. or not.

    M.Worthington, Manchester
    Agree (3) | Disagree (1)

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