Vote 2020 graphic
Everything you need to know about and expect during
the most important election of our lifetimes

Promise Of Self-Driving Cars Eliminating Most Traffic Fatalities Mostly Bullshit: IIHS

Illustration for article titled Promise Of Self-Driving Cars Eliminating Most Traffic Fatalities Mostly Bullshit: IIHS
Photo: Getty
The Morning ShiftAll your daily car news in one convenient place. Isn't your time more important?

Self-driving cars may only reduce a third of annual traffic fatalities. The used car market and airliners are attempting a comeback with promise. Bentley just laid off a ton of people. All that and more in the Morning Shift for Tax Day! Friday, June 5, 2020.

Advertisement

1st Gear: Self-Driving Tech May Only Prevent A Third Of Traffic Fatalities: IIHS

Sure sounds like any company working on self-driving technology has been blowing smoke straight up our asses, according to a new IIHS study:

For the study, the researchers imagined a future in which all the vehicles on the road are self-driving. They assumed these future vehicles would prevent those crashes that were caused exclusively by perception errors or involved an incapacitated driver. That’s because cameras and sensors of fully autonomous vehicles could be expected to monitor the roadway and identify potential hazards better than a human driver and be incapable of distraction or incapacitation.

Crashes due to only sensing and perceiving errors accounted for 24 percent of the total, and incapacitation accounted for 10 percent. Those crashes might be avoided if all vehicles on the road were self-driving — though it would require sensors that worked perfectly and systems that never malfunctioned. The remaining two-thirds might still occur unless autonomous vehicles are also specifically programmed to avoid other types of predicting, decision-making and performance errors.

Consider the crash of an Uber test vehicle that killed a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona, in March 2018. Its automated driving system initially struggled to correctly identify 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg on the side of the road. But once it did, it still was not able to predict that she would cross in front of the vehicle, and it failed to execute the correct evasive maneuver to avoid striking her when she did so.

Advertisement

Decision errors, like passive or active speeding by a driver, or illegal maneuvers like driving out of lines or making an illegal U-turn, account for a further 40 percent of crashes the IIHS claims self-driving technology will not be able to effectively prevent—depending on the circumstances.

If companies design tech to prioritize safety over rider preference, the study says, then the technology is less likely to make the same “convenience” errors humans make all the time. But if companies wish to better serve riders, it’s likely there will be allowances for turning, stopping, passing, and even speeding for rider convenience.

Any concessions here will likely directly lead to more deaths.

The IIHS also points out the self-driving Uber’s failure to predict the path of the cyclist it hit and killed at night in Arizona, the first known self-driving car fatality. The monitoring driver was watching something on their phone at the time of the incident, proving humans lack even the slightest sense of accountability when the computer is in “control.”

Advertisement

For the rest of the percent pie, there will always be conditions even a perfect computer, or human, can’t handle well. The study points out large crowds of people may overwhelm systems, bad whether will diminish tech reliability, and chaos events like a tire puncture, fallen tree, broken axle, cop with a tear gas gun, or what have you will always happen and are just unavoidable. Chalk that up to fate.

2nd Gear: Spend That Check

People are back to buying cars, and with a troubled economic outlook and lacking dealer inventory of new cars due to production shutdowns, the used car market surged back to life last month, according to Reuters:

As America shut down in March to combat the spread of COVID-19 and its economy tanked, U.S. new-vehicle sales plummeted. Sales were down around 30% in May, an improvement from a 47% drop in April.

But used-vehicle sales have rebounded faster.

[...]

According to Cox Automotive, new-vehicle sales for the week ending May 28 were down 28%, but sales of used vehicles were up 6%.

According to Cox unit Manheim, wholesale used-vehicle prices rose 5.74% in the first half of May from the previous month.

Advertisement

Reuters also claims that, over a week in May, ten out of the top 15 models sold at franchise dealerships in the U.S. were used cars. A few of the dealers Reuters spoke to claim they saw a lot of deposits for exactly $1,200, the value of the recent U.S. stimulus package paid to citizens.

3rd Gear: U.S. Airlines: ‘Go Outside? Please?’

Airlines have a recovery plan, and it’s convincing you to spend money in economically harsh times to go outside during a global pandemic. What could go wrong?

Advertisement

From Reuters:

American Airlines (AAL.O) and United Airlines (UAL.O) each announced more flights to key U.S. business and leisure destinations where national parks and outdoor recreational spaces are reopening after months of lockdowns and travel curbs, sending their shares sharply higher.

Chicago-based United is adding more non-stop flights as well as servicing markets like Aspen, Colorado and Jackson Hole, Wyoming where it said “social distancing is a natural feature” in the scenic landscapes.

“Leisure travel has been the most missed activity during lockdown across age and income demographics, even more so than things like restaurants,” said Jason Guggenheim of Boston Consulting Group, which has surveyed consumers in the United States and Europe.

“But it’s going to take business travel longer to come back,” he said, noting work-from-home models will remain in place for some time.

Advertisement

When I think of the great outdoors, I do not think of airports and a metal tube recirculating the shared air of 200 people for hours.

4th Gear: Bentley Cuts 1,000 Workers

Bentley, just one small arm of the world’s largest automaker, which sells cars priced deep into the six-figure range exclusively to millionaires around the world, has decided it has to let go of 1,000 jobs.

Advertisement

From Auto News:

Bentley will cut 1,000 jobs – almost a quarter of its workforce – as the automaker tries to compensate for revenue lost during the shutdown of its plant in the U.K. and subsequent reduced production rate.

Bentley said it would initially reduce staffing levels through voluntary layoffs but added that it could not rule out compulsory departures.

“Losing colleagues is not something we are treating lightly but this is a necessary step that we have to take to safeguard the jobs of the vast majority who will remain,” Bentley CEO Adrian Hallmark said in a statement on Friday.

Bentley is the latest British automaker to reduce employee headcount after Aston Martin announced on Thursday it would cut 500 jobs and McLaren Group said in May it would ax 1,200 positions across its applied technology, automotive and racing businesses.

Advertisement

What really stings is 2019 was the first year Bentley was profitable in years. Wonder where all that money was prioritized. Why don’t we yell at companies for not saving money like you all yell at your kids for not saving money?

5th Gear: ‘Cruising’

While you look up what “cruising” means on urban dictionary, I’m going to share a funny story about GM’s self-driving startup Cruise trying to rescue Zoox engineers from the cold clutches of Amazon.

Advertisement

From Auto News:

Self-driving technology company Cruise, a unit of General Motors, is trying to poach engineers from rival Zoox Inc., according to an email sent to Zoox engineers by the founder of Cruise this week.

The move comes as the Wall Street Journal reported last week that e-commerce giant Amazon.com Inc. is in advanced talks to buy Zoox, a company founded six years ago and based in Silicon Valley.

“Cruise is willing to recognize the full value of the rewards you’ve earned at Zoox - something that is very unlikely to occur via an acquisition in this environment,” said the email from Cruise founder Kyle Vogt sent in the past two days, according to a person who has seen the email. Reuters has not seen a copy of it.

Advertisement

Reverse: It Never Really Ended

Advertisement

Neutral: Did You Buy A Car In May?

What’d you get?

Reviews Editor, Jalopnik

Share This Story

Get our newsletter

DISCUSSION

revengenceralf
RevengencerAlf

I’m not necessarily indicting the data, because I do think self driving cars will still be safer enough to be worth pushing (if done properly). But let’s be clear about one thing here. The IIHS is not an independent source. They owe their funding and allegiance to insurance companies. They’re basically an insurance industry funded think tank / lobbying tool, and insurance companies aren’t all that keen on autonomous vehicles for 2 reasons. Electronic tech makes crashes more expensive when they do happen, and a large enough reduction from self driving cars will effectively nullify or reduce the need for mandatory insurance. Even if the manufacturers are forced to carry insurance for system faults, it will not be as profitable as mandatory driver liability insurance has been for them.

As for the actual analysis... No shit the uber incident and ones like it would require “predictive” avoidance, but that’s literally the entire point of going autonomous. If all a car needed to do was see obstacle, avoid obstacle, we could practically have that today by combining lidar, infrared and visual sensors.  The whole reason autonomous development is such a long track is that we need to develop and teach these systems to not only recognize the obvious, but intuit the probable or even possible.  Is that smudge on the road the remnants of a lane marker that’s been worn away?  Is that person standing on the side likely to cross?  Is the road wet enough to require a change in speed tolerance or  just shiny from headlights?  All these are questions they’ll have to asses and that they are being designed to asses. It’s not like they’ve discovered some big gotcha problem here that everyone’s been ignoring.