Should You Depend on Autonomous Safety Features in Cars?

photo of a car accident

The short answer is no. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) issued a warning after testing five semi-autonomous systems in Tesla, Mercedes, BMW and Volvo vehicles. IIHS engineers tested each vehicle’s adaptive cruise control, automatic braking, and lane-centering systems in a controlled track environment and on public roads. Driver assist technology has been found to increase safety in past IIHS studies, but it should not be solely relied upon. During testing, IHHS found the semi-automated systems could fail under many circumstances.

When they tested Tesla vehicles on a track with automatic braking engaged, but without adaptive cruise control, both Tesla models braked, but failed to stop before hitting a stationary balloon. When both adaptive cruise control and automatic braking were engaged, the vehicles did not crash. However, once out on public roads, each vehicle, except for Tesla’s Model 3, failed to recognize stopped vehicles ahead of them and needed immediate human input.

The Society of Automotive Engineers and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have defined five levels of vehicle automation. Currently, only Level 2 vehicles are available for purchase. Level 2 vehicles feature capabilities to maintain a vehicle’s speed and lane position, but may require human input at any time.

Safety experts urge the public to keep in mind that these new technologies are meant to support the driver and should not be confused with total autonomy. In a prototype test performed on a public road, an Uber tragically failed to recognize a woman crossing the street and killed her. The safety driver did not react in time. This example alone shows that autonomous cars don’t understand certain complex, but everyday situations that arise when we’re driving.

If you have been injured in an auto accident in San Diego County or a surrounding area, we encourage you to call the Traffic Accident Law Center. Our attorneys have more than 35 years of combined experience in representing clients in personal injury claims. We can advise you of your rights and guide you through the process of filing an injury claim and pursuing legal action. We offer a free initial consultation. Call us at (619) 882-1111 to learn more.