Self-Driving Cars Still Cause Accidents
By Space Coast Daily // September 14, 2020
Tesla car set on autopilot mode struck an overturned truck in Taiwan
On June 1, 2020, a Tesla car set on autopilot mode struck an overturned truck in Taiwan.
A video of the accident shows the autonomous car crashing head-on into a clearly visible overturned truck.
The crash perplexed many experts who wondered how the advanced autopilot features of the self-driving car could ignore a large road hazard such as an overturned truck.
While no one was injured as a result of the accident, the crash highlights how self-driving cars may still cause accidents and present a hazard for other vehicles and pedestrians travelling on roadways.
Details of the Self-Driving Car Crash
Roadside cameras captured footage of the self-driving car nearly striking a pedestrian before crashing into an overturned truck which blocked two lanes of traffic on a Taiwanese highway.
While the driver of the Tesla claims that the car was set on auto-pilot mode, some experts suspect that the driver was also inattentive.
This is because the overturned truck was clearly visible and the driver did not use the vehicle’s breaks until shortly before the crash.
Safety Features in Tesla and Other Autonomous Vehicles
Tesla and many other vehicles with self-driving features specify that driver attention is required while operating the vehicle. Some auto manufacturers implement features to help ensure that the driver is paying attention while travelling.
This includes a Tesla safety feature which requires drivers to slightly move the steering wheel to check that the driver is not distracted while driving.
“The accident in this case demonstrates why drivers should always remain vigilant while driving,” said Attorney John Cooper of Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers.
“While no one was injured in this accident, faulty autopilot features or driver inattention can lead to serious injuries and even result in death.”
Automotive driving features in many vehicles operate by detecting hazards and adapting driving patterns to account for them. Hazards are often detected by computer vision systems which track and analyze potential hazards.
Additionally, many cars have anti-crash features that use a radar to detect the distance of objects directly in front of the vehicle. When triggered, these features could activate the vehicle’s breaks or alert the driver of the potential hazard.
How the Taiwan Self-Driving Car Accident May Have Occurred
The accident in Taiwan could have occurred as a result of a miscalculation or failure of Tesla’s automotive driving features. While Tesla’s computer vision and hazard detection system could likely identify the back or side of a truck or other vehicle, it may not be able to identify the top of the truck as easily.
Conversely, the autonomous vehicle simulation company Cognata suggested that Tesla’s system may have mistakenly identified the overturned truck as an overexposed blob of light and thus did not register the object as a potential hazard.
However, the company notes that data from Tesla would need to be obtained to confirm if this occurred in this case.
The Future of Self-Driving Cars
The recent accident in Taiwan highlights the larger discussion of how automated driving could impact the occurrence of auto accidents.
A report released on June 4, 2020 by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety analyzed how that the implementation of self-driving features could impact the occurrence of car crashes.
While many may assume that advanced technology could eliminate or dramatically reduce the occurrence of auto accidents, IIHS officials predicted that advanced features may only be able to prevent one-third of accidents.
In their report, IIHS researchers found that automated technologies would be able to prevent errors related to perception and sensing, which account for about 23 percent of accidents.
Additionally, self-driving features may also be able to dramatically reduce accidents related to drunk driving or incapacitation, which made up roughly 10 percent of accidents.
However, IIHS officials predicted that automated driving features would be unable to significantly reduce accidents caused by several other errors that frequently cause accidents.
This includes adjusting roadway conditions, incorrect evasive maneuvers, and accidents caused by vehicle malfunction.
Other Accidents Caused by Self-Driving Vehicles
In addition to the recent car accident in Taiwan, several other fatal accidents have been attributed to self-driving vehicles.
This includes a fatal accident that occurred in Tempe, Arizona in March of 2018. In the Arizona accident, an automated Uber car initially failed to identify a pedestrian as they were about to cross the street.
While the vehicle was later able to identify that a person was in front of the car, it failed to apply brakes or conduct an evasive maneuver to avoid striking the pedestrian.
Additionally, other accidents related to self-driving features have also been recorded in Florida, California, and China