Oct 4, 2019

Automatic brake tech needs more work, AAA says

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

New emergency-braking technology that is supposed to help cars avoid pedestrian crashes is often ineffective, per AAA.

Why it matters: Pedestrian deaths are sharply higher, according to federal statistics, with nearly 6,000 fatalities a year, accounting for 16% of all traffic deaths. The technology has the potential to make the streets safer, but clearly needs more work, AAA said based on new test results.

By the numbers: AAA tested four 2019 mid-sized sedans equipped with pedestrian detection systems (Chevy Malibu, Honda Accord, Tesla Model 3 and Toyota Camry) with adult- and child-size dummies and found...

  • In daylight testing, the cars traveling 20 mph struck adults crossing the road 60% of the time.
  • At night, none of the systems detected or reacted to the adult pedestrian, an alarming result considering 75% of pedestrian fatalities occur after dark.
  • When turning right and into a crosswalk, the cars hit the adult pedestrian every time.
  • When encountering a child darting from between two cars, the test vehicle traveling at 20 mph hit the child 89% of the time.
  • At over 30 mph, the systems failed every test.

The bottom line: Like most assisted-driving technologies, pedestrian detection systems have not been perfected and drivers need to pay attention.

Go deeper

Vehicle fatalities drop, pedestrian toll continues to rise

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

There is both good news and bad news in the latest government accounting of highway fatalities.

The good news: The number of people who died in vehicle crashes in 2018 dropped 2.4%, to 36,560, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported this week.

Go deeperArrowOct 25, 2019

Autonomous vehicles won't save cities without sharing

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

As congestion cripples the world's cities, transportation officials and city planners are trying to figure out how automated vehicles can help alleviate traffic and address climate change.

Why it matters: Robotaxis and delivery AVs running non-stop won't stop anything if they're merely replacing existing cars on the road. Instead, AVs need to be thoughtfully woven into reinvigorated public transportation systems so they become a desirable alternative to personal cars.

Go deeperArrowOct 9, 2019

Training real AI with fake data

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

AI systems have an endless appetite for data. For an autonomous car's camera to identify pedestrians every time — not just nearly every time — its software needs to have studied countless examples of people standing, walking and running near roads.

Yes, but: Gathering and labeling those images is expensive and time consuming, and in some cases impossible. (Imagine staging a huge car crash.) So companies are teaching AI systems with fake photos and videos, sometimes also generated by AI, that stand in for the real thing.

Go deeperArrowOct 12, 2019