Influence of Level 1 and Level 2 Automated Vehicles on Fatal Crashes and Fatal Crash Occurrence

Motor vehicles and driver interactions are likely to change significantly in the next few decades, perhaps more than they have evolved in the past. Recent and ongoing advances in vehicle automation technology have created very high expectations regarding highway performance, safety improvement, and environmental benefits. As human error is the leading cause of road crashes in the United States, AVs are expected to reduce the number of crashes caused by the drivers through the gradual removal of the role of human decisions in driving.

Although the deployment of driving assistance and autopilot features (adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, controlling speed and steering, etc.) has increased over recent years, fully AVs are not yet a reality, apart from a few test vehicles. Without a high penetration rate, the safety benefits of AVs may not be maximized. Besides, the safety benefits also depend on how heavily the driver relies on driver assistance, autopilot, or other automation features. Additionally, some recent crashes involving vehicles with collision avoidance and autopilot systems, resulting in deaths, indicate that AVs may not be yet effective all the time or at all the locations. Potential reasons are related to localization and the ability to sense objects and control the AV irrespective of the geographic location, geometric condition, environmental condition, traffic condition, and time-of-the-day. Understanding the influence of the transition from no AVs to level 1 and some level 2 AVs to all AVs on the overall safety of the transportation system could be more challenging than what is expected. A comprehensive safety analysis to examine the trends in crashes, over time, in conjunction with the advancements in vehicle technology is the first step. It should be complemented with modeling and assessment to identify factors associated with level 1 and level 2 AV crash involvement when compared to non-automated (level 0) vehicles. Therefore, there is a need to analyze crash data and identify factors that influence or play a role in crashes involving level 1 and level 2 AVs. Due to the potential reduction in driving economies and the transition to AVs, the conventional perception of ownership of vehicles can also be influenced over time. Therefore, there is a need to examine the market trends, probable shift to AVs (mode shift), and project the effect of new vehicles with different levels of automation on crashes. This helps in developing a readiness plan to proactively address the anticipated safety challenges in future years.

Mineta Consortium for Transportation Mobility
UNC Charlotte
Principal Investigator: 
Srinivas Pulugurtha, PhD
PI Contact Information: 

Director of IDEAS Center
Professor of Civil & Environmental Engineering
The University of North Carolina at Charlotte
9201 University City Boulevard
Charlotte, NC 28223-0001
Tel. (W): +1 704 687 1233

Funding Source(s) and Amounts Provided (by each agency or organization): 

U.S. Department of Transportation, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology 

Total Project Cost: 
$ 75,000
Agency ID or Contract Number: 
June 2020 to December 2021
Impacts/Benefits of Implementation: 

The objectives of the proposed research are:

1) to collect and comprehensively evaluate data pertaining to the levels of vehicle automation and what each level entails from a safety perspective, considering selected models/makes, their manufacture year, and specifications,

2) to research the trends in the penetration of level 1 and level 2 automated vehicles (AVs), and,

3) to model the influence of level 1 and level 2 AVs on fatal crashes and fatal crash occurrence.

Project Number: 



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