National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Stories July 17, 2015

Google’s self-driving cars are drawing a lot of attention and conversation online. Perhaps one of the biggest concerns from regular people like you and I is how safe they are. But as a recent video and blog post shows, you’re seemingly infinitely far more likely to be hit by another driver not paying attention, than your car malfunctioning and crashing in to someone else. But why do Google’s cars get hit so much?

Chris Urmson posted a really interesting article about what it’s like being hit by another car, driven by a human, while taking a ride in a self-driving Googlemobile. Urmson notes that the autonomous cars are being hit “surprisingly often”, despite their fancy array of sensors, processors and algorithms.

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National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Stories March 25, 2015

AAA road safety campaign shows real videos of teenage car crashes while using smartphones

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has put online video clips from real car crashes caused by 16-19 year old drivers using smartphones while driving. The videos, which show both the view through the windscreen and a view of the driver, are designed to make real the dangers of distracted driving.

None of the crashes featured in the above clip feature injuries, but almost 3,000 people a year are killed in crashes involving drivers in this age-range, the majority of them caused by the driver being “inattentive or engaged in some other non-driving-related activity.” A further 383,000 people a year are injured.

Researchers at the University of Iowa examined carcam footage from 1,691 crashes involving drivers aged 16-19 to determine the cause. Distracted driving was found to be the cause in 58% of crashes, with 12% of them due to using a phone while driving. For crashes involving the car leaving the road, a full third of crashes were attributed to cellphone use.

UK tests conducted earlier this month suggested that smartwatches are even worse than smartphones for driver distraction.

The full AAA report can be downloaded here.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Stories May 21, 2014

Google argues it, not the person in the driver’s seat, should receive any tickets for its self-driving cars

Google argues that should any of its self-driving cars get a ticket for a traffic violation, that ticket should go to the company and not to the person in the driver’s seat, reports The Atlantic.

“Right now the California Vehicle Code reads that the person seated in the driver’s seat is responsible for the movement of the vehicle,” Mountain View PD’s Jaeger tole me in an email […]

“What we’ve been saying to the folks in the DMV, even in public session, for unmanned vehicles, we think the ticket should go to the company. Because the decisions are not being made by the individual,” said Ron Medford, safety director for Google’s self-driving car program, and the former deputy administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

None of Google’s self-driving cars have yet been ticketed, but the possibility could have significant implications in states like California that apply points to driving licenses as well as handing out fines.

Surprisingly, the DMV is already addressing the issue, having held four public meetings to examine the way the driving code might need to be adapted to cope with autonomous cars.

The assistant chief counsel for the California DMV, Brian Soublet, opened the most recent meeting asking, specifically, if anyone had comments on the definition of operator in the legal code. “The vehicle code defines an operator as the person seated in the driver’s seat,” Soublet said, “or if there is no one seated in the driver’s seat, the person who causes the autonomous technology to engage.” […]

“[In law] a person includes a corporation and a partnership and other forms of entities. So when we think of a vehicle being operated, is it that inclusive? Is the operator that person, that could be a corporation?”

So if your self-driving car decides it is safer to run a light than to brake hard, it could be Google who picks up the tab.

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