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CMU study: even partially-automated crash avoidance delivers financial and safety benefits

A new cost-benefit analysis by researchers at Carnegie Mellon College of Engineering shows that the public could derive economic and social benefits today if partially-automated collision avoidance features were deployed in all cars.

In a paper published in the journal Accident Analysis & Prevention, they evaluated the benefits and costs of fleet-wide deployment of three such technologies: blind spot monitoring; lane departure warning; and forward collision warning crash avoidance systems within the US light-duty vehicle fleet.

Approximately 24% of all crashes are relevant to one of the three crash avoidance technologies. The three crash avoidance technologies could collectively prevent or reduce the severity of as many as 1.3 million US crashes a year including 133,000 injury crashes and 10,100 fatal crashes.

Using government and insurance industry data, the CMU team made two estimates of potential benefits in the United States:

  1. the upper bound fleet-wide technology diffusion benefits by assuming all relevant crashes are avoided; and

  2. the lower bound fleet-wide benefits of the three technologies based on observed insurance data; technology will improve over time and cost will fall with scale economies and technology improvement.

They found that collectively, the three technologies could provide a lower bound annual benefit of about $18 billion if equipped on all light-duty vehicles.

By assuming all relevant crashes are avoided, the total upper bound annual net benefit from all three technologies combined is about $202 billion or an $861 per vehicle net benefit, at current technology costs.

On the more conservative side, when only observed crash reductions in vehicles equipped with blind spot monitoring, lane departure and forward collision crash avoidance systems are considered, there is still an annual positive net benefit of $4 billion dollars or $20 a vehicle. Although $20 per vehicle is small, the researchers believe that future improvements in technology and lower prices could lead to larger net benefits over time.

While there is much discussion about driverless vehicles, we have demonstrated that even with partial automation there are financial and safety benefits. If you bought a car right now with these safety systems at the current prices offered by auto manufacturers, both you and society would have a positive economic benefit. We are seeing that partial automation is accomplishing crash and crash severity reductions, and we expect that to improve. This study creates a framework for regulatory action encouraging early deployment of partial automation technologies.

—Chris T. Hendrickson, director of the Carnegie Mellon Traffic21 Institute


  • Corey D. Harper, Chris T. Hendrickson, Constantine Samaras (2016) “Cost and benefit estimates of partially-automated vehicle collision avoidance technologies,” Accident Analysis & Prevention, Volume 95, Part A, Pages 104-115 doi: 10.1016/j.aap.2016.06.017


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