The blog assails the study’s assumptions about how AVs are designed, “which badly warp the results being highlighted in media reports.” - Photo via Cpl. Jake McClung/US Marine Corp.

The blog assails the study’s assumptions about how AVs are designed, “which badly warp the results being highlighted in media reports.”

Photo via Cpl. Jake McClung/US Marine Corp.

In a Medium blog post published June 4, industry coalition PAVE (Partners for Autonomous Vehicle Education) disputed an IIHS study contending that autonomous vehicles could only prevent a third of all road crashes in the U.S.

“There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with trying to anticipate the transformative changes that AVs might unlock, but extrapolating from an unsound factual foundation can lead to grotesquely warped conclusions,” PAVE said in the post. 

The blog assails the study’s assumptions about how AVs are designed, “which badly warp the results being highlighted in media reports.”

The IIHS breaks driver-related factors from reported crashes into five categories of errors: “sensing and perceiving,” “predicting,” “planning and deciding,” “execution and performance” and “incapacitation.” 

IIHS assumes that AVs will only solve the factors in the “sensing and perceiving” and “incapacitation” categories, which the report says could only solve 34% of road deaths.

The blog contends that the Tempe death caused by an autonomous vehicle mentioned in the report was an outlier compared to how the AV industry operates. 

“The notion that AV riders would be able to choose to trade off safety for speed is what features far more prominently in IIHS and media explanations of their finding. This issue of ‘rider preference’ trading off with system safety might make sense in a Sci-Fi story, but in reality no AV developer has even hinted that this would be an option.”

“In fact, it’s not impossible that AVs might violate traffic rules in some circumstances, but when they do it will be in the name of enhancing safety and not trading it off for speed as the study’s authors speculate,” the post says. 

The post says it’s not trying to prove that AVs will solve all road deaths. “But given the fundamental issues with some of IIHS’s assumptions, it’s not clear that saying AVs can only solve 34% of road deaths is a much more fact-based mental model than the overly-optimistic view it seeks to replace. The search for an accurate projection of AVs’ life-saving potential goes on.”

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