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Itasca, IL – The National Safety Council was not surprised that the NTSB investigation into the 2016 fatal Tesla crash found "driver error" and an "overreliance on vehicle automation" to be the probable causes of the crash. Driver error leads to 94 percent of all crashes each year. An overreliance on partially automated technologies is becoming a new challenge in our rapidly changing driving culture.
However, what we call these technologies matters too. Labeling cars as "self-driving" or technologies as "auto-pilot" implies the driver can abdicate responsibility to the machine. The nomenclature is misleading. In reality, advanced driver assistance technologies can work with us and help mitigate driver error – but they cannot work without us.
This crash serves as a stark reminder that cars cannot yet drive themselves. We must understand the systems in our vehicles and how to properly interface with them so they provide the intended safety benefits. Shutting them off because we do not understand them is just as counterproductive as depending on them to make decisions for us. We are decades away from an autonomous fleet. It is critical to remember that the driver still is the car's best safety feature, and humans are the "self" in "self-driving."
About the National Safety Council
The National Safety Council (nsc.org) is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to eliminate preventable deaths at work, in homes and communities, and on the road through leadership, research, education and advocacy. Founded in 1913 and chartered by Congress, NSC advances this mission by partnering with businesses, government agencies, elected officials and the public in areas where we can make the most impact.
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