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NHTSA’s ADAS, automated-driving data useful despite caveats

NHTSA does not currently require companies subject to the order to report vehicle miles traveled or fleet size but could consider updating its crash-reporting requirements to include more contextual information.

In the meantime, the agency said it will continue to evaluate the crash reports and plans to release data updates monthly.

While the data is too limited to make “any sort of meaningful conclusions,” Benoff said, there are still trends worth keeping an eye on.

Vehicles with advanced driver-assistance systems, for instance, “were most commonly damaged in the front, which means the human drivers are running into things,” he noted.

Meanwhile, AVs “were most commonly damaged in the rear, which usually means that someone else did the crashing.”

But, Benoff added, “This data was only ever intended to spot trends and possible issues to investigate.”

NHTSA senior officials confirmed that the data had already been used to trigger new investigations and recalls, and inform ongoing safety probes.

Tesla’s Autopilot driver-assist system is under escalated scrutiny after a series of crashes in the U.S. that resulted in more than a dozen injuries and one death. The agency this month upgraded its investigation of the system to an engineering analysis and later could seek a recall of an estimated 830,000 vehicles.

The crashes — now totaling 16 — involved Tesla vehicles with Autopilot engaged that were driven near first-responder scenes and subsequently struck one or more stopped emergency vehicles involved with those scenes.

NHTSA said it also closely reviewed 191 Tesla crashes involving a version of Autopilot, including the Full Self- Driving beta, during its preliminary evaluation. Some of those crashes were identified from NHTSA’s crash reporting mandate.

“All the people tracking the race to autonomy aren’t going to find this data as usual because that’s not NHTSA’s job,” said Carnegie Mellon’s Koopman. “NHTSA’s job is to find defects and get them fixed, not be the scorekeeper.”


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