Autonomous driving and road safety

One of the biggest innovations of the automobile industry is the autonomous driving. The rapid development of technology has made possible for major automakers in the world to equip vehicles with systems that will operate alongside driving, interfering with vehicle operations at critical times. Early detection of the presence of a pedestrian, autonomous brake activation, long-distance recognition of the sudden deceleration of a leading vehicle, and timely alert intervention via audio and visual messages are today some of the assistive systems available (ADAS).

The widespread use of these systems has led to the collection of large volumes of interaction data between vehicles and driving environment resulting in the birth of autonomous driving. The term autonomous driving describes the ability of a vehicle to perform all the functions required while driving, without the driver’s intervention. The decision to start, accelerate and change direction is made by the vehicle’s integrated algorithm while the driver is a simple observer.

Advantages of autonomous driving include reduced vehicle response, fuel economy and reduced effort in high-traffic situations. On the other hand, the use of such systems so far has highlighted a problematic aspect concerning their ability to intervene at critical times, demonstrating good judgment, preserving the occupant’s physical integrity.

The unpredictable movement of passing vehicles and the way road markings often lead to the application of incorrect protocols and the provocation of a traffic accident.

At the same time, the confidence that the driver will feel when applying this system will make him complacent and unprepared to regain control of the vehicle in a desirable time.

In April 2018, a vehicle of a well-known automobile company was involved in an accident: while the autonomous driving system was activated, the vehicle deviated to the left-hand side of its course, hitting on the protective cement barrier causing his death. In terms of accountability, the prevailing conditions and the response of individual vehicle systems appear to be a point of contention for specialist analysts. However, based on the recorded data, the evidence that causes great concern is that the driver appears,until the time of the collision, to not have his hands on the steering wheel for six whole seconds.