A study by the Highway Loss Data Institute, which is an affiliate of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) shows that some driver-assistance technology packages designed to improve vehicle safety and crash avoidance have been successful, according to The Car Connection. Still, other driver-assistance packages raised questions about their safety and effectiveness.

SELF DRIVING 750x420 Driver assistance technology looks promising but dont overlook safetyResearchers looked at insurance claims for BMW vehicles that include four different types of collision avoidance technology – roughly 6 million insured vehicles – from 2013-2017. The researchers specifically analyzed “claims to repair the insured driver’s vehicle, property damage liability claims to repair the other cars in a crash that were not at fault, and bodily injury liability claims resulting from the crash.”

Although more advanced packages offering several different safety features appeared to perform better, the basic driver assistance package reflected an increase in claims of injury and property damage. With the basic package that combined forward collision warning with lane departure warning, researchers found there was “a 2% increase in the frequency of collision claims, a 5% increase in the frequency of property damage claims and an 11% increase in the frequency of bodily injury claims,” as reported by Cars.com.

Data indicated a reduction in claims that translated into fewer crashes and, thereby, fewer injuries and reports of property injury as a result. The other three packages reviewed by researchers include the following findings:

  • The second system, which included an alerts package and added automatic emergency braking, showed a 5% reduction in the frequency of collision claims, an 11% reduction in the frequency of property damage claims and a 16% reduction in the frequency of bodily injury claims.
  • The third package, called the Driving Assistance Package, added adaptive cruise control and upgraded versions of the features in previous packages. It reflected a 6% decrease in collisions, a 27% decline in property damage and a 37% reduction in bodily injury claim rates.
  • The last package, called the Driving Assistance Plus Package added lane centering and front cross-traffic alert systems. The results were similar to the Driving Assistance Package so researchers question the effectiveness of the lane centering and front cross-traffic alert systems.

The HLDI said the reductions in crash claims are the largest the group has seen from analyzing driver assistance systems. However, it is important to note the study only examined vehicles from one manufacturer, BMW.

Driver-assistance features like those studied for this report are a few steps away from similar technology that goes even further in putting more control in the hands of the machine – autonomous, or “self-driving” vehicles.

While most automakers are well into the market providing driver-assistance features, fewer have delved into the autonomous vehicle market, or are just beginning to dip a toe into this new technology. It remains to be seen how autonomous vehicles, which take even more control out of the hands of individual drivers, may help or hinder safety as they become more common on the roads. Manufacturers of vehicles dubbed “autonomous” that are currently available to the public – Tesla among the best known – still caution drivers to take an active role in their operation.

Chris Glover, who is the Managing Attorney for Beasley Allen’s Atlanta office, has handled many cases involving defective auto products that have failed after being placed on the market and that have caused catastrophic injury and death. He also handles truck accidents and other litigation involving commercial vehicles, and is keeping a close eye on how autonomous vehicles are being tested for long-haul trucking.

Clay Barnett, who also works in the firm’s Atlanta office, is handling Consumer Fraud cases investigating potential class action litigation related to driver-assistance and autonomous vehicle technology. He is currently working on litigation involving an autonomous braking defect in Nissan vehicles. That litigation is filed in the Northern District of Tennessee. He notes, “As manufacturers race to introduce autonomous driving and braking technologies, they hurry through the development and testing phases. Because of this and ill-conceived cost-savings measures, we are seeing defects show up in the field.”

Beasley Allen lawyer Ryan Duplechin, who works in our Mass Torts section, also is interested in the issue of autonomous vehicles and their potential future safety concerns.

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