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Normalizing Crash Risk of Partially Automated Vehicles under Sparse Data




The safety of increasingly automated vehicles is of great concern to regulators, yet crash rates are generally reported by manufacturers using proprietary metrics with limited source data. Without consistent definitions of crashes and exposure, automated vehicle crash rates cannot be meaningfully compared with baseline datasets. The objective of this study was to establish methods to normalize automated vehicle crash rates using one manufacturer’s crash reports as a case study. The manufacturer’s quarterly crash rates for vehicles using SAE Level 2 and Level 3 automation were compared. Road type was controlled for using data from a naturalistic driving study with the same model vehicles, while driver age was controlled for using demographic ownership surveys. Although Level 3 vehicles were claimed to have a 43% lower crash rate than Level 2 vehicles, their improved was only 10% after controlling for different rates of freeway driving. Direct comparison with general public driving was impossible due to unclear crash severity thresholds in the manufacturer’s reports, but analysis showed that controlling for driver age would increase reported crash rates by 11%. These results establish the need for detailed crash data, crash definitions, and exposure and demographic data in order to accurately assess automated vehicle safety.


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2021-10-26 — Updated on 2023-03-02