How does it feel being a guinea pig?
That’s a question for anyone behind the wheel of an electric vehicle with technology that purports to be able to drive itself but, of course, can’t. (Hi, Tesla owners!)
Federal authorities have allowed these vehicles on the road to see how they’d fare in real-world situations. And now we have an answer: Not so great.
There were nearly 400 car crashes in the United States related to driver-assistance technologies from last July until this May, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Six people died and five others were seriously injured.
Teslas accounted for the majority of incidents — 273 out of a total 392 crashes. Hondas were involved in 90 incidents and Subarus in 10.
BMW, Ford, General Motors, Hyundai, Porsche, Toyota and Volkswagen each reported five or fewer accidents.
The findings validate what consumer advocates have been saying all along — that automated-driving systems are not reliable in the sense that they’re safely piloting the vehicle without human assistance.
These are systems with advanced sensors and algorithms. But the fact remains that you’re endangering yourself and others if you take your hands off the steering wheel or, worse, turn your attention elsewhere, such as your friggin’ phone.
“These technologies hold great promise to improve safety, but we need to understand how these vehicles are performing in real-world situations,” Steven Cliff, NHTSA’s administrator, told reporters.
“This will help our investigators quickly identify potential defect trends that emerge.”
Which is to say, they’re learning from the experiences of drivers who have been putting these technologies to the test.
There may come a time — in fact, there probably will — when vehicles really do have the wherewithal to drive themselves.
But we’re not there yet, not even close.
So if you have one of these systems in your car, do us all a favor. Pay attention to the road and keep your hands on the wheel.
Otherwise, you’re taking a big chance.