Cars that care, chapter 1: The problem – drivers cause the most accidents

The joy of driving. Many automakers have built their brand around this vision. Generation after generation comes of age and stakes their claim to the freedom to go where they want in vehicles. The volume of news stories about automated and autonomous vehicle testing is increasing daily, some would have you believe the that the days of taking your own car for a ride will soon be in the rear-view mirror.

Too early for autonomous vehicles to save drivers

The reality is that while autonomous driving continues to develop at pace, and will bring with it many advantages, it will take some time for its widespread deployment to make an impact against the total number of cars on the road today. In IBM’s recently published Institute of Business Value (IBV) Study Automotive 2025: Industry without Borders, we interviewed 175 executives across the automotive industry. We found that automated driving is coming on fast and furious, but fully autonomous vehicles will likely still only have limited exposure over the next decade. Realistically, we’re looking at the 2030’s before people making decisions behind the wheel will substantially decline. Recently, one of the premium automotive brands concurred.

figure 1 auto vehicle use 2025 graphic

fig 1. Mainstream vehicle use by 2025

Of course, along with the freedom of driving comes substantial risk. In 2015, the most recent year of full U.S. statistics, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that there were nearly 6.3m reported crashes in which over 35k people were killed and over 2.4m people injured. This represents an uptick over recent years as they’re the highest reported since 2008. The 6.3m accidents are the highest on record in the U.S. and represent the fifth consecutive years of growth.

Drivers – the primary cause of accidents

Despite all the safety technology that the automotive industry continues to add to their vehicles, the primary cause of all these accidents is…wait for it…the driver!  NHTSA further analyzed the root cause of a full year of accidents and an astounding ninety-four percent pointed to some manner of driver error. Recognition and decision errors accounted for a substantial majority of these accidents.

fig 2.Driver delated critical reasons for crash causation

Another layer of information in understanding these accidents is to consider the driver’s frame of mind as they’re behind the wheel.  When drivers are in an emotional state, whether positive or negative emotions, they dramatically increase the likelihood of getting into an accident.  In fact, they’re ten times more likely to have one.  Emotions lead to distraction which lead to mistakes.

Even excellent drivers are at risk

Even excellent drivers falter when they’re emotionally pre-occupied. Drivers whose attention is elsewhere, make three general categories of mistakes:

  1. Risky behavior such as abrupt lane changes, speeding, or moving too slowly
  2. Reduced reaction times for turns or braking
  3. Inattentiveness where they forget to use turn signals and drift left and right in and across lanes

Could cars that care keep drivers safer?

Click image for full-size infographic

Your car can detect through its sensor systems when it is being driven erratically and its driver may have other things on their mind. All the driving behavior symptoms described are known by today’s vehicles. So perhaps we can trust the axiom; “a problem well stated is half-solved”. If cars also understood the driver’s emotional state then it could take steps to aid their capability and keep everyone in the car safer.

To find out more, visit our ‘Cars that Care’ site.

NEXT:  The Diagnosis


The post Cars that care, chapter 1: The problem – drivers cause the most accidents appeared first on Internet of Things blog.

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Auto Compensation: UK wants victims of self-driving car accidents to be quickly compensated

(Image Credit: iStockPhoto/chombosan)

The UK is planning ahead of how insurance will be handled in the self-driving era with a framework that ensures accident victims are quickly compensated.

Among the biggest questions surrounding the roll-out of self-driving cars is that of insurance and how it will function when there’s no-one in control of the vehicle. This has gained extra attention over the past year as more self-driving tests were conducted, and more accidents were reported. 

Chris Grayling, the Transport Secretary, said: Automated vehicles have the potential to transform our roads in the future and make them even safer and easier to use, as well as promising new mobility for those who cannot drive.” 

“But we must ensure the public is protected in the event of an incident and this week we are introducing the framework to allow insurance for these new technologies.” 

Google published accident reports of its self-driving vehicles throughout last year until November when it reported the first month without an incident. You can find that final report here (PDF) 

Self-driving cars will improve road safety as they reduce human error from things such as tiredness, distractions, medical problems, and people who drive intoxicated. Machines aren’t foolproof, however, and despite safeguards, accidents will happen. This will occur more in the early days as machines learn to deal with various scenarios, but the unpredictability of the roads and other users are sure to cause problems years down the line. 

David Williams, head of underwriting, at AXA UK, another insurer said: The vast majority of accidents are caused by human error and we see automated vehicles having a massive impact, reducing the number and severity of accidents.  

The government’s plan would have driverless car owners signing up for dedicated two-in-one’ insurance policies. One policy would cover the vehicle’s driver when it’s being driven conventionally, while the other would cover the vehicle when it’s driving itself. 

When a car is being driven by a person, that individual will be responsible if the accident was deemed their fault and will have to pay the excess on their policy where appropriate and face higher renewal premiums, as today. A vehicle in driverless mode, however, will mean the insurer paying out compensation and recovering it from the manufacturer. 

Edmund King, president of insurance firm AA, said: There has been much debate about the whether the driver, manufacturer or indeed highway authority would be liable in a driverless collision. This announcement puts the onus on the driver to ensure that they are fully covered.” 

By introducing such two-in-one’ policies, the government hopes to avoid the confusion of who the claim should be filed against in the event of an incident which involves a driverless vehicle, and offer victims quick and easy access to compensation. 

What are your thoughts on the UK’s plan for driverless car insurance? Let us know in the comments. Latest from the homepage