Aren't we overdoing electronic auto safety features?

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Browser
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Aren't we overdoing electronic auto safety features?

Post by Browser » Fri May 15, 2015 12:26 pm

According to data compiled by NHTSA, as of 2010 the vehicle fatality rate was 1.10 persons per 100 million vehicle miles travelled.

http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/811552.pdf

I drive and ride about 10,000 miles per year in autos, so the odds of my being killed in a given year are 10K/100M *1.10 = 0.011%; that is, my chances of not being killed driving in a given year are 99.99%. Over an entire 60-year driving lifespan, the odds of not being killed in an automobile accident are 99.99%^60 = 99.34%. This assumes I'm an "average" driver and not in a safer driver cohort, which I probably am. Car safety has been hugely improved over the years through improvements in auto design and crash testing. According to NHTSA, the fatality rate was 7 times higher in 1949 than in 2010. Now, more and more car manufacturers are starting to add expensive non-mandated safety options to their vehicles, with no data regarding their effectiveness in reducing fatalities. So my question is this: if I pay thousands of dollars to add safety options such as lane change monitoring, automatic braking, adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, etc. to my new vehicle, how much will this actually improve my chances of not getting killed in a car accident over my lifetime? Is this a case of over-insuring against minuscule risk, and a case of auto companies finding a new way to capitalize on fear and paranoia to increase their profits?
Last edited by Browser on Sun May 17, 2015 8:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Aren't we overdoing electronic auto safety features?

Post by Spooky » Fri May 15, 2015 12:38 pm

I think you would want to include serious injuries in your calculations.

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tyrion
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Re: Aren't we overdoing electronic auto safety features?

Post by tyrion » Fri May 15, 2015 12:41 pm

Valid points.

I would mention that while avoiding death in an automobile accident is tops on the list, I would also like to avoid injury. And avoiding the accident altogether isn't too shabby an outcome.

Additionally, this is one area where you can choose to better your individual odds. I can't buy a safer airplane flight, but I can drive in a safer car.

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Re: Aren't we overdoing electronic auto safety features?

Post by surfstar » Fri May 15, 2015 12:44 pm

I'm assuming that the rate in 2010 also accounted for all of the cars that were not brand new and had the fancy new safety standards? If so, then any vehicle that is less than 5 years old today, would likely have an even lower death rate.

My 'new' car is an '05, but I'm still happy to hear these stats. No need [for me] to upgrade anytime soon.

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Re: Aren't we overdoing electronic auto safety features?

Post by sport » Fri May 15, 2015 12:47 pm

If you can reduce crashes, you do not only reduce your chances of being killed. You reduce your chances of being injured, having your car damaged, and causing death, injury and property damage to someone else. If you add the probabilities for all of these things, the numbers would look somewhat better. If these devices actually work as well as they seem to, insurance rates should eventually reflect lower payouts. There is also the benefit of "peace of mind" although it is not quantifiable.

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Re: Aren't we overdoing electronic auto safety features?

Post by lack_ey » Fri May 15, 2015 12:47 pm

Right, getting in a crash is an unfavorable outcome, whether it's a fender bender or you're talking life-or-death. Changing a scenario from dying to not dying is nice, but so is going from a severe injury to something less serious.

Also, though fatalities are rare enough that finding robust data so soon is impossible, other kinds of information should probably inform you of the likelihood of these features making some difference. A frequentist approach to tail events can be a bit limited. It's hard to say, but you shouldn't wait on the data to start adjusting your opinion.

Of course the vehicle manufacturers are capitalizing on fear and finding ways to increase margins and provide differentiation. The last thing they want is for vehicles to be more commoditized and stagnated in features, so in go the entertainment systems and more control systems, safety related and not. You have to run your own cost-benefit analysis. Or go with the gut.

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Re: Aren't we overdoing electronic auto safety features?

Post by Browser » Fri May 15, 2015 12:57 pm

Spooky wrote:I think you would want to include serious injuries in your calculations.
I thought about that, but how would we do that? First, you have to assume that these electronic safety features reduce incidents of serious injury and we don't know that they do. Second, you would need some data to evaluate the significance of any reduction if there in fact is any. I suspect that there is a huge correlation between serious injury and fatalities, and there has already been a vast reduction in the rate of serious injury due to improvements in auto design. How much better is that likely to be if optional electronic safety features are added?
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Re: Aren't we overdoing electronic auto safety features?

Post by magellan » Fri May 15, 2015 1:04 pm

Browser wrote:So my question is this: if I pay thousands of dollars to add safety options such as lane change monitoring, automatic braking, adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, etc. to my new vehicle, how much will this actually improve my chances of not getting killed in a car accident over my lifetime? Is this a case of over-insuring against minuscule risk, and a case of auto companies finding a new way to capitalize on fear and paranoia to increase their profits?
IMO, the items you listed are new and so there just isn't enough data to know if they're worth it. For now, all you can do is make a judgement call as to whether or not to purchase each option and join in on the experiment.

Eventually, when these features have been widely deployed for a while, someone will conduct a analysis like this one electronic stability control:
https://ideas.repec.org/p/ngi/dpaper/09-07.html

Of course, every analysis is subject to biases and possible mistakes, so even once the data is available, you still have to make a judgement call, at least on the optional stuff.
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Re: Aren't we overdoing electronic auto safety features?

Post by neurosphere » Fri May 15, 2015 1:05 pm

Take death and injury off the table. Consider costs such as car damage, property damage (as already mentioned), and consider the costs of time to deal with accidents, repairs, filing insurance claims. Add in police time taking/filing reports, road crews to clear the road, etc. It may be that the costs of the safety features (particularly those which prevent accidents) might be substantially offset by reductions elsewhere. But obviously I have no way of quantifying any of those parameters. :)
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Re: Aren't we overdoing electronic auto safety features?

Post by sgr000 » Fri May 15, 2015 1:10 pm

Browser wrote:According to data compiled by NHTSA, as of 2010 the vehicle fatality rate was 1.10 persons per 100 million vehicle miles travelled. http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/811552.pdf

I drive and ride about 10,000 miles per year in autos, so the odds of my being killed in a given year are 10K/100M *1.10 = 0.011%; that is, my chances of not being killed driving in a given year are 99.99%. Over an entire 60-year driving lifespan, the odds of being killed in an automobile accident are 99.99%^60 = 99.34%. ...
Well, the difference between 99% and 99.9% is the difference between human extinction and survival in the zombie apocalypse:

A. Suchman, "Measurements: When is the difference between 99% accuracy and 99.9% accuracy very important?", Quora 2013 (retrieved 2015-May-15).

The silliness of the example often improves its use as a teaching tool. In this case, it's teaching us that the tails of distributions matter, and that Thomas Bayes is your friend.

Personally, I'm all in favor of making driving much safer, especially including self-driving cars. Because zombies can't drive worth a damn.

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Re: Aren't we overdoing electronic auto safety features?

Post by Browser » Fri May 15, 2015 1:13 pm

neurosphere wrote:Take death and injury off the table. Consider costs such as car damage, property damage (as already mentioned), and consider the costs of time to deal with accidents, repairs, filing insurance claims. Add in police time taking/filing reports, road crews to clear the road, etc. It may be that the costs of the safety features (particularly those which prevent accidents) might be substantially offset by reductions elsewhere. But obviously I have no way of quantifying any of those parameters. :)
You're only focusing on nuisance accidents that you could have mitigated, which leaves out the whole category of accidents done to you by somebody else. Every accident I've had in a 50-year driving career was caused by somebody else running into me. Until every vehicle on the road is equipped with these features, that's not likely to change much. And, when everybody else has this stuff on their cars, I won't need it on mine... :wink:
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Re: Aren't we overdoing electronic auto safety features?

Post by greg24 » Fri May 15, 2015 1:16 pm

The U.S. still has over 32,000 die in auto accidents annually. I don't think we are overdoing safety features.

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Re: Aren't we overdoing electronic auto safety features?

Post by dpc » Fri May 15, 2015 1:20 pm

For the past several years, the annual death toll from automobile accidents has been about 33,000 per year in the US. This is down from a peak of around 50,000 per year in the late 70s and early 80s. The reduction occurred even though population and miles driven has increased - so driving has gotten a lot safer, mainly due, IMO, to government mandated safety features and probably some reduction in drunk driving. Of course, not all accidents result in fatalities. If an auto braking system can eliminate a fender bender, it's paid for itself.

But 33,000 is still a lot. Not sure when we reach a point of diminishing returns in terms of cost/benefit. Most of these systems are still optional, so if people are buying them, they must feel there is some benefit. Backup cameras are now are a requirement (or soon will be) - I suspect that trend to continue as the cost of the electronics comes down.

You might want to buy new car now and drive it for 10 years or so if you want to avoid paying for this new stuff. I think in 10 years, no one will even be asking if these systems are necessary.

I'm looking forward to getting some of these systems in the next new car I buy (in about 7 years). 8-)
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Re: Aren't we overdoing electronic auto safety features?

Post by jjustice » Fri May 15, 2015 1:23 pm

My next car will have adaptive cruise control and crash mitigation. These safety features are worth a lot to me.
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Re: Aren't we overdoing electronic auto safety features?

Post by N1CKV » Fri May 15, 2015 1:26 pm

Yes.
My truck has "Stabilitrak" (electronic stability control). The system is quite annoying when I drive logging roads. My truck is 4X4, I know how to drive, I know how to react in a skid, my truck thinks it does too. When the truck reacts with strategic braking it actually has came very close to causing me to wreck. The system is designed for the people that will just freeze up in a skid scenario. My instinct is to react which is the completely wrong thing to do with this system active. The system can be turned "OFF", but in reality it's still not off, drive aggressively enough and it still will interfere. In addition there is no way to turn it off and leave it off, it resets every ignition cycle. I may exit paved roads and not return for a week at a time sometimes.

The blind spot monitor sounds like a good thing. Lane departure warning sounds like some yuppie thing for people that shouldn't be getting distracted in the first place, same goes for auto braking and adaptive cruise control.

I do wear my seatbelt willingly but I'm not fond of the idea that the center of my steering wheel can explode in my face at any given moment - given the choice I would eliminate it.
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Re: Aren't we overdoing electronic auto safety features?

Post by BigFoot48 » Fri May 15, 2015 1:28 pm

I'm just glad we survived 10 years driving a 1970 VW Bus which had only sheet metal between the passengers and anything coming from the front. Now, old and wiser, I want and will pay for any and all safety features, with adaptive cruise control being high on the list for the next vehicle.
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Re: Aren't we overdoing electronic auto safety features?

Post by inbox788 » Fri May 15, 2015 1:32 pm

Browser wrote:So my question is this: if I pay thousands of dollars to add safety options such as lane change monitoring, automatic braking, adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, etc. to my new vehicle, how much will this actually improve my chances of not getting killed in a car accident over my lifetime? Is this a case of over-insuring against minuscule risk, and a case of auto companies finding a new way to capitalize on fear and paranoia to increase their profits?
Yes and yes. We're overpaying today and the car companies are capitalizing on our fears. But, there is a price where cost/benefit is worth it. Would you spend $10 reduce the chances of an accident? I would expect someone that has 100x the average wealth would be willing to pay 100x for the same benefit. Hence, high end cars have more of these technologies. The good that comes from it is that the technology is ever evolving and improving, so as it becomes tested by the wealthier, we find out if they work or not, and whether they're worth it. Sadly, I think some of these devices are so untested that the results may be negative in that they cause more accidents from distracting drivers than they actually save from happening. Plus the high cost and time involved in learning how to use these new devices is often left out of the calculations.

Now even if they don't prevent fatalities, another crossover point is the cost savings from an accident. I'm guessing the most promising technology that is widely adopted in the future is the automatic braking. If the technology can be had for $200 (vs $2000 today) and it prevents an accident every 20 years that costs $5000 to repair, it may be worth adopting for all cars. Of course, it transfers liability from your car to the car following you.

If I'm reading the data about google cars today correctly, they were involved in 11 accidents over 1.1 million miles. There were 7 times where the car was rear ended and supposedly zero times when the car caused an accident. You'd figure humans would be closer to 50/50.

http://www.gizmag.com/google-reveals-le ... ram/37481/

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Re: Aren't we overdoing electronic auto safety features?

Post by fire5soon » Fri May 15, 2015 1:44 pm

I was seriously injured in an auto accident in my youth where, during recovery/rehab/etc., death seemed preferable. Whether you survive the crash or not should not be the only measure of success.
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Re: Aren't we overdoing electronic auto safety features?

Post by tadamsmar » Fri May 15, 2015 1:49 pm

Browser wrote:
Spooky wrote:I think you would want to include serious injuries in your calculations.
I thought about that, but how would we do that? First, you have to assume that these electronic safety features reduce incidents of serious injury and we don't know that they do. Second, you would need some data to evaluate the significance of any reduction if there in fact is any. I suspect that there is a huge correlation between serious injury and fatalities, and there has already been a vast reduction in the rate of serious injury due to improvements in auto design. How much better is that likely to be if optional electronic safety features are added?
Here's some data:

https://www.census.gov/compendia/statab ... 2s1112.pdf

There are about 5.5 million crashes per year that cause injury or property damage and result in a police report. About 1.5 million injuries, 30,000 fatalities, about 4 milllion with only property damage.

The injury rate is about 50 times the fatality rate you used the OP.

The property damage rate is about 133 times the fatality rate.

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Re: Aren't we overdoing electronic auto safety features?

Post by tadamsmar » Fri May 15, 2015 1:57 pm

Browser wrote:Is this a case of over-insuring against minuscule risk, and a case of auto companies finding a new way to capitalize on fear and paranoia to increase their profits?
An auto company should have fear and paranoia about falling behind too much in the race to higher safety levels. They can't just want till safety features pan out in a big way and then start installing it. It might not be available from a third party. They have to keep up on the development curve and the learning curve. A feature might be mandated by the NHTSA if it passes their cost-benefit screen.

With the NHTSA, IIHS, and others analyzing, estimating and measuring, there is no place to hide if a company falls behind.

There are still tens of thousands of fatalities and over a million injuries per year, so no company wants to end up being proven responsible for more than their fair share of those.

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Re: Aren't we overdoing electronic auto safety features?

Post by psteinx » Fri May 15, 2015 2:44 pm

Following on tadamsmar's data, and with some guesstimating:

From that link, in 2009 there were 5.5 million police-reported, injury or property damage causing crashes.

I think I've seen data that roughly half of all accidents are single car. Let's assume that some of the remainder are 3 or more cars, and put a total multiple of 1.6 on it. i.e. The number of vehicles involved in an accident fitting the criteria in the US in 2009 was probably around 5.5M x 1.6 = 8.8 million.

In 2013, about 15.6 million new light vehicles were sold in the U.S.

This does not include motorcycles, whereas I think tadamsmar's data does, as well as probably some small amount of commercial (larger) vehicles, but this is back of the envelope analysis anyways...

So, if both the accident rate and the sales rate were stable indefinitely, then it might be realistic to say that a new vehicle purchased in 2013 would have about a 8.8/15.6 = .56 mean number of involvements, over its lifetime, in a crash fitting the census data criteria (police reported, property damage and/or personal injury or death, etc.) This is not the same as saying 56% of all vehicles will have such involvements, as some will have more than 1...

There's a lot of fuzziness in this analysis - a lot of caveats and fine tuning of the analysis that could be done. Some comparisons are not quite apples to apples (exclusion of motorcycles and commercial trucks from one category but not another).

Still, unless I've made a serious mistake, or unless the trendlines on crashes change sharply*, then there's a non-trivial chance that the new vehicle you buy today will be involved in a significant accident at some point. That doesn't mean we all need to be driving tanks, nor can everyone afford a vehicle with every safety bell and whistle, but still, it's food for thought, no?

*Per that census data link, reported crashes fell from 6,471K in 1990 to 5,505K in 2009. A solid, but not spectacular improvement over nearly two decades. But 2009 was a pretty grim time, economically, and IIRC, miles driven dropped sharply in the recession. Back up the comparison period to 2007, and there were 6,024K crashes. Thus from 1990 to 2007, a 17 year period, total reported crashes fell only 6.9%. That's better than nothing, but not spectacular. Non-fatal injury crashes fell more noticeably. (Perhaps due largely to better seat belt usage and widespread airbags? Perhaps improved car structures deserve significant credit too?)
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Re: Aren't we overdoing electronic auto safety features?

Post by psteinx » Fri May 15, 2015 2:53 pm

I would further assume that both crashes with and without injuries follow some curve such that the majority in each case are on the left side of the graph (i.e. minor injury and/or minor property damage). Still, there are many crashes that total vehicles, and/or grievously injure people (without killing them).

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Re: Aren't we overdoing electronic auto safety features?

Post by TomatoTomahto » Fri May 15, 2015 3:55 pm

fire5soon wrote:I was seriously injured in an auto accident in my youth where, during recovery/rehab/etc., death seemed preferable. Whether you survive the crash or not should not be the only measure of success.
I'm sorry to hear it was tough for you. Avoiding such a non-fatal but painful experience for my loved ones is worth a lot to me... regardless of what the actuaries compute.
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Re: Aren't we overdoing electronic auto safety features?

Post by adamthesmythe » Fri May 15, 2015 3:55 pm

> So my question is this: if I pay thousands of dollars to add safety options such as lane change monitoring, automatic braking, adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, etc. to my new vehicle, how much will this actually improve my chances of not getting killed in a car accident over my lifetime?

My impression is that the features appear in response to known classes of accidents. They appear first in expensive cars and work their way down the line as they become cheaper. By the time they are in Corollas I expect utility is pretty well known.

>Is this a case of over-insuring against minuscule risk, and a case of auto companies finding a new way to capitalize on fear and paranoia to increase their profits?

To be completely honest, I do not believe that safety features sell many cars. Well, maybe a few, to the thinking drivers, but I don't think there are that many of them. I suspect most cars, especially lower end ones, are sold by sheet metal and chrome.

And...YA DON'T HAVE TO BUY IT if you think it is exploiting you too much.

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Re: Aren't we overdoing electronic auto safety features?

Post by DualIncomeNoDebt » Fri May 15, 2015 4:03 pm

Browser wrote:Is this a case of over-insuring against minuscule risk, and a case of auto companies finding a new way to capitalize on fear and paranoia to increase their profits?
No. And even if it is, I still want more electronic safety features. Why? [OT comment removed by admin LadyGeek] Many don't pay any attention at all, dangerous lane changes, tailgating, and on and on.

I trust the electronics way, way more than I trust a tired or distracted driver. There's a reason airline travel has gotten much, much safer the last 50 years -- technology. Technology doesn't get tired or distracted. Humans do, regularly. And we are at a point where technology is getting so good, so fast, it is really starting to outshine human capability at repetitive tasks requiring extended attention spans.

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Re: Aren't we overdoing electronic auto safety features?

Post by DualIncomeNoDebt » Fri May 15, 2015 4:04 pm

Browser wrote:Is this a case of over-insuring against minuscule risk, and a case of auto companies finding a new way to capitalize on fear and paranoia to increase their profits?
No. And even if it is, I still want more electronic safety features. Why? Because so very many people are stupid -- that's why. I see these morons every single day, and by far the worst are the phone texters. Many don't pay any attention at all, dangerous lane changes, tailgating, and on and on.

I trust the electronics way, way more than I trust a tired or distracted driver. There's a reason airline travel has gotten much, much safer the last 50 years -- technology. Technology doesn't get tired or distracted. Technology doesn't get drunk. Technology doesn't panic. Humans do, regularly. And we are at a point where technology is getting so good, so fast, it is really starting to outshine human capability at repetitive tasks requiring extended attention spans, across every commercial discipline.

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Re: Aren't we overdoing electronic auto safety features?

Post by neurosphere » Fri May 15, 2015 5:28 pm

Browser wrote:
neurosphere wrote:Take death and injury off the table. Consider costs such as car damage, property damage (as already mentioned), and consider the costs of time to deal with accidents, repairs, filing insurance claims. Add in police time taking/filing reports, road crews to clear the road, etc. It may be that the costs of the safety features (particularly those which prevent accidents) might be substantially offset by reductions elsewhere. But obviously I have no way of quantifying any of those parameters. :)
You're only focusing on nuisance accidents that you could have mitigated, which leaves out the whole category of accidents done to you by somebody else. Every accident I've had in a 50-year driving career was caused by somebody else running into me. Until every vehicle on the road is equipped with these features, that's not likely to change much. And, when everybody else has this stuff on their cars, I won't need it on mine... :wink:
Actually, I was thinking about the US aggregate costs, i.e. the costs to the economy, to society, etc of car accidents. And I was also assuming that any safety feature was mandatory, so that it would reduce both your accidents AND accidents done to you or yours. Certainly your chances (and anyone else's chances), of getting hit by another car in the rain or snow is reduced due to anti-lock breaks?

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Re: Aren't we overdoing electronic auto safety features?

Post by sambb » Fri May 15, 2015 5:45 pm

avoidance if injury? sure
How about avoidance of LIABILITY and headaches.
Blind spot monitoring, and forward collision warning are awesome. I don't want to hit someone and be sued. My time is worth too much. I am so happy to have these things. They work great. Backup camera rules! People have run over children!

There are people here who think we have overdone cell phones also. I love my iPhone. There are people who think we have overdone marriage. Love mine too. everyone has different priorities.
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Re: Aren't we overdoing electronic auto safety features?

Post by Browser » Fri May 15, 2015 6:04 pm

There are a couple new safety features that I personally think I'd like to have:

1) Backup camera -- these are becoming standard on most vehicles these days
2) Backup proximity warning
3) Blind spot warning

Backup cameras are a really good idea. Too bad practically nobody is currently adding automatic braking to their backup warning system. It would be nice to actually avoid running over someone when you're backing up instead of just having a good view of it on your backup camera. I also like the idea of blind spot warning just because it adds one more layer of safety to me swiveling my head around to see if anyone is there.

There are others that I don't think I want or need:

1) Adaptive cruise control
2) Forward collision warning
3) Collision mitigation braking
4) Lane departure warning
5) Lane keeping steering assist

It has never been that difficult for me to keep from running into vehicles in front of me, so I don't know how having the car assist in that process with adaptive cruise control, collision warning, and automatic braking would be useful unless I want to start texting and watching video while I'm driving along. Likewise, I don't recall having difficulty keeping my car in it's lane so I really don't want a nanny chirping at me and tugging on my steering wheel. Now, that's not to say that I wouldn't want those features on your car, because you are probably a lousy driver who doesn't pay attention and tailgates me and swerves in and out of your lane while you're DUI.
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Re: Aren't we overdoing electronic auto safety features?

Post by robert88 » Fri May 15, 2015 6:27 pm

To word the question slightly differently, is it rational to buy a $50k vehicle primarily for its safety features? I think the answer to that is clearly no. In a 2011 Accord, I have 0.0019% chance of dying and if you buy a 2015 Accord, your risk is almost certainly lower. As I pointed out in another thread if my life is worth $10 million, then a fair value for a vehicle that achieved perfect safety would be $190/year more than the cost of a 2011 Accord. I'm more concerned about someone running into me than I am concerned that I will run into someone else and buying a collision avoidance system won't help with that. It might be great if everyone had these systems, if they were technically mature, but that's a public policy discussion not a personal consumer issue.

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Re: Aren't we overdoing electronic auto safety features?

Post by YttriumNitrate » Fri May 15, 2015 6:31 pm

It definitely does seem as though there are diminishing returns on safety features and we are well past the point where the greatest safety hazard is the person sitting behind the steering wheel.
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Re: Aren't we overdoing electronic auto safety features?

Post by magellan » Fri May 15, 2015 6:35 pm

robert88 wrote:To word the question slightly differently, is it rational to buy a $50k vehicle primarily for its safety features? I think the answer to that is clearly no.
I'm not sure such a blanket statement can be supported. Everyone will have their own cost vs. benefit situation. For some, spending $50k for a trivial difference in safety benefit might be perfectly rational, especially if otherwise the $50k would just sit in a retirement account doing nothing until they eventually die.

In other words, the utility one gets from having money in an bank account could be zero, while the utility from a trivial statistical bump in safety may be greater than zero. Also, some people will derive measurable psychological benefits from having a safer car beyond chance of directly benefiting from the safety features.

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Re: Aren't we overdoing electronic auto safety features?

Post by robert88 » Fri May 15, 2015 6:47 pm

magellan wrote:
robert88 wrote:To word the question slightly differently, is it rational to buy a $50k vehicle primarily for its safety features? I think the answer to that is clearly no.
I'm not sure such a blanket statement can be supported. Everyone will have their own cost vs. benefit situation. For some, spending $50k for a trivial difference in safety benefit might be perfectly rational, especially if otherwise the $50k would just sit in a retirement account doing nothing until they eventually die.

In other words, the utility one gets from having money in an bank account could be zero, while the utility from a trivial statistical bump in safety may be greater than zero. Also, some people will derive measurable psychological benefits from having a safer car beyond chance of directly benefiting from the safety features.
I'll partially concede the point, but if your purchases aren't at least somewhat budget constrained, then I wonder what you're doing in a personal consumer forum.

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Re: Aren't we overdoing electronic auto safety features?

Post by randomguy » Fri May 15, 2015 7:23 pm

N1CKV wrote:Yes.
My truck has "Stabilitrak" (electronic stability control). The system is quite annoying when I drive logging roads. My truck is 4X4, I know how to drive, I know how to react in a skid, my truck thinks it does too. When the truck reacts with strategic braking it actually has came very close to causing me to wreck. The system is designed for the people that will just freeze up in a skid scenario. My instinct is to react which is the completely wrong thing to do with this system active.

Did the safety system almost cause the crash or was it your improper instinct? Change is hard. You might be in a much safer car but until you unlearn your know bad habits you maybe be in a more dangerous spot.

As far as cost, this stuff should be cheap. Yes people like Mercedes and BMW want 2500 for it. Subaru wants like 800 bucks. 800 bucks over the 15 year lifespan (that is approximate. It may have gone up recently) of the car is a huge deal. It might even save you money depending on if you get an insurance break or not.

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Re: Aren't we overdoing electronic auto safety features?

Post by AAA » Fri May 15, 2015 7:34 pm

As cars become more and more similar, which they seem to be doing, manufacturers tend to add more "technology" to differentiate their products. A lot of it I don't really care about. I'm all for safety, however, but I'm not sure that I trust software-based automatic systems very much.

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Re: Aren't we overdoing electronic auto safety features?

Post by adamthesmythe » Fri May 15, 2015 7:39 pm

YttriumNitrate wrote:If we REALLY wanted to reduce that 32,000 deaths per year stat, we would simply require that every new car have A) a system that requires everyone have their seat belt on or the car shuts down in 60 second, and B) the driver has to blow into a breathalyzer before the car will start.
You forgot the system that brings the car to a gentle stop upon the merest touch of a cellphone.

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Re: Aren't we overdoing electronic auto safety features?

Post by magellan » Fri May 15, 2015 7:47 pm

AAA wrote:I'm all for safety, however, but I'm not sure that I trust software-based automatic systems very much.
Maybe I've got this wrong, but my understanding is that you can't buy a new car today that doesn't have a software controlled engine and braking system.

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Re: Aren't we overdoing electronic auto safety features?

Post by randomguy » Fri May 15, 2015 7:48 pm

adamthesmythe wrote:
YttriumNitrate wrote:If we REALLY wanted to reduce that 32,000 deaths per year stat, we would simply require that every new car have A) a system that requires everyone have their seat belt on or the car shuts down in 60 second, and B) the driver has to blow into a breathalyzer before the car will start.
You forgot the system that brings the car to a gentle stop upon the merest touch of a cellphone.
And the one that looks at your fitness tracker and if you have been up more than 18 hours, it doesn't let you drive until you have slept 6. Before long roads will be totally safe as no one will be driving:)

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Re: Aren't we overdoing electronic auto safety features?

Post by dbr » Fri May 15, 2015 8:05 pm

When I retired I cut my chances of dying in a car accident by a factor of three by driving 1/3 as many miles per year as before.

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Re: Aren't we overdoing electronic auto safety features?

Post by LadyGeek » Fri May 15, 2015 8:17 pm

This thread has run its course and is locked (not personal nor actionable). General comment threads are off topic in the forums with "Personal" in the title. See: A reminder that non-investing general comment threads are OT
- It must be personal. In other words, you must be asking about your own situation. You can also ask on behalf of someone specific, such as a family member.

- It must be actionable. You must be able to do something specific with the replies that will make a difference in your situation.
If you have a specific question, please ask directly and provide sufficient information for members to supply appropriate advice.

Update: See below.
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Re: Aren't we overdoing electronic auto safety features?

Post by LadyGeek » Fri May 15, 2015 8:55 pm

After receiving a PM, this thread is actionable if the discussion can be put in context to discuss basic cost / benefits for anyone contemplating buying a new vehicle.

Given the currently available safety technology and their utility, how much should be spent on newer / safer vehicles?

This thread is now unlocked.
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Re: Aren't we overdoing electronic auto safety features?

Post by psteinx » Fri May 15, 2015 9:27 pm

I had sent a couple PMs to LadyGeek, who graciously acknowledged and re-opened this thread.

There are a number of ways to attempt to improve one's car safety by buying better and/or newer vehicles, often with better technology. There have been some interesting numbers in this and other threads on car safety over the last few months.

A few more thoughts from me:

1) Apparently, many who post here live in Lake Wobegon, and are above average drivers with below average risks. OK, I admit that I think this describes me, too. That said, I've got teen drivers coming, and I certainly don't think THEY are or will be above average drivers (relative to the overall US population, not just to other teens). Anyways, hopefully some of us can be a little circumspect and realize that the risks apply to us too.

Even if you've never been in a serious accident in your life.

Even if you think you're a good driver.

Also, for the outsized portion of the BH audience who is, err, quite mature. Remember that driving skills may decline as you enter your 70s, 80s, and beyond...

2) One way to think about safer (but more expensive) cars is as a form of insurance. Most insurance merely reduces financial consequences. Safer (but more expensive) cars are a way we can reduce physical consequences to ourselves and our loved ones (and yes, even strangers on the road) - risk of loss of life or serious injury.

3) Safer technology is available RIGHT NOW. This is not "driverless cars" being toyed with by Google or whatever but still in technological infancy. You can buy cars with a lot of newer electronic gizmos today, at your local dealership. Some makers offer a lot of this stuff (Volvo, Suburu), others less. The specific offerings vary. And not every new gizmo adds much, if any, safety value. Some may even be net negative. But this stuff is real, on the ground (and at dealers), today.

4) That said, you're not a terrible person, or a terrible parent, if you don't buy the most expensive, most tech-ed out vehicle on the market. Even if a given technology is likely effective, we all face trade-offs. Endangering other worthwhile financial goals for a safety bump-up - well, it's a trade-off. We're all in our own situations, and even if we were in agreement on the specifics (technology X reduces fatal and non-fatal injuries by Y%, at a cost of $Z), that would still translate to different decisions, for different folks.
Last edited by psteinx on Mon May 18, 2015 11:32 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Aren't we overdoing electronic auto safety features?

Post by psteinx » Fri May 15, 2015 9:30 pm

OK, so the above is fairly broad and not specific (I'm not making a specific claim about a specific technology). But maybe it adds a useful framework for mods and others who may be skeptical of the concrete utility of this kind of discussion. I do have a post upthread doing some back of the envelope calculations with real numbers (as far as overall risks for new vehicles, not the specific merits of a specific technology), and I started another thread recently on auto-braking systems, which was interesting to me.

I actually went out yesterday and test drove a Suburu Forester with Eyesight (various newer safety technologies, including auto-braking). It had lane monitoring, which was easy to test and seemed to work - not sure of the true value. It beeped when I drove up (faster/longer than I would in normal circumstances) towards a parked car (in the dealer lot). With the salesman beside me, I sorta tried to test the auto-braking itself, but it was hard to get it to kick in before it got to the point where I freaked out and braked myself (driving towards unoccupied vehicles on the dealer lot under the tutelage of the salesperson). It would have been nice if they had a sort of inflatable car shaped balloon or whatever to test with (as in, I think, the online videos I've seen of Suburu's eyesight in action).

Bottom line, I haven't made up my own mind as to whether to buy a new/new-ish vehicle, with some, lots, or a ton of new-ish safety features for myself and my family (including one teen driver currently, and another in less than a year).

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Re: Aren't we overdoing electronic auto safety features?

Post by sambb » Fri May 15, 2015 9:40 pm

The lake wobegon comment is interesting.

I don't see how so many people are such good drivers. But it doesn't matter. Even good drivers can cause accidents. The cost savings, however, is not just the cost of hitting someone's car. The cost is in the lawsuit that could follow, if it is anywhere near one's fault. If you can avoid a lawsuit and the harassment attached, i think these safety items are well worth it.

I can afford to buy a car with these things. I cannot afford the time and heartache from a lawsuit, I would rather avoid it with any safety gear necessary to prevent an issue. Why not.

I agree that the utility of money left over after one dies is negligible to me. (could be valuable to my heirs, but not to me). Hence, the safety mechanisms are of better value if I have money leftover. And the way things look, i will.

Also there may be value of the safety items in a population where cognitive decline can happen.

I think , for the OP, go for it. I have some of the safety things and NO DOUBT they have saved me from accidents.

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Re: Aren't we overdoing electronic auto safety features?

Post by TomatoTomahto » Fri May 15, 2015 9:46 pm

psteinx wrote:Also, for the outsized portion of the BH audience who is, err, quite mature. Remember that driving skills may decline as you enter your 70s, 80s, and beyond...
When I was a teen, I took flying lessons and soloed. I was known for an ability to land on a dime (but my navigational skills were sufficiently bad that other pilots remarked that, while my skills at landing were impressive, I couldn't find a dime if you handed me a sack of coins). As a driver, I once bumped into someone who inexplicably changed their mind about entering a highway. Other accidents, few in number, were not my fault, and I avoided many accidents over the years.

I am nearing my mid 60s. I find that it takes more concentration to stay squarely in my lane, that my awareness and anticipation are still high functioning but are being offset by slower reflexes, that my night vision includes more glare than it once did, etc. I will welcome my Tesla's driving aids.

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Re: Aren't we overdoing electronic auto safety features?

Post by robert88 » Fri May 15, 2015 9:55 pm

psteinx wrote: A few more thoughts from me:

1) Apparently, many who post here live in Lake Wobegon, and are above average drivers with below average risks.
I don't think Lake Wobegon is as crazy as it sounds at first when you consider these statistics:

1. In 1/3 of fatal car crashes, at least one of the drivers was alcohol impaired.
2. In 18% of driver deaths, a driver was under the influence of a drug under than alcohol.
3. In 30% of fatal car accidents, at least one vehicle was speeding.
4. In 26% of car accidents, one of the drivers was either talking on their cell or texting.

What does it take to be an above average driver, at least in the sense of having a below average risk of being the responsible party in a serious accident? Follow all the traffic laws. It's really that simple.

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Re: Aren't we overdoing electronic auto safety features?

Post by psteinx » Fri May 15, 2015 10:05 pm

Per the link in the OP's OP: (http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/811552.pdf)

In 2010, 31% of all fatalities were in an alcohol-related crash (0.08 BAC or higher).

But that's NOT the same as saying 31% of all people who died in a car crash were drunk. Drunk drivers can kill their passengers, and they can kill drivers and passengers in OTHER cars on the road.

Obviously, if you don't drive drunk yourself, you significantly reduce your chances of dying in car crash. Same with wearing a seatbelt consistently, and all the other safe driving tips. But yes, people still die when they follow these rules. And there are some folks who perhaps don't follow these rules 100% of the time, or have children or spouses who don't. Perhaps those folks don't live here in Lake Wobegon, but they live somewhere...

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Re: Aren't we overdoing electronic auto safety features?

Post by psteinx » Fri May 15, 2015 10:17 pm

BTW, can we get a show of hands of the folks who:

1) Never speed
2) Have never used a cell phone while driving
3) Have never driven while too tired
4) Have never driven after a few beers or glasses of wine, or even some other substance
5) Have no drivers in the house under 25 now or coming along who will use their vehicles
6) Are not themselves over 65 and/or in some fashion in or entering a stage of life when their skills and reflexes may decline
7) Don't ever drive on Friday night or Saturday night or other nights when drunks may be on the road
8) Don't ever try to push through on roads that are too snowy or icy, or when storms are blowing, to get home, or to your family's house on Thanksgiving or Christmas
9) Have never had even a close call or scary moment, whether due to their own lapses or those of another
10) If married, are quite confident that their spouse is also fully consistent with the above

===

It's tongue in cheek, please don't follow up with a bunch of posts claiming that you in fact follow all of the above, or all but #s X and Y.

Yes, I recognize that the financially above-average prudence of folks here probably correlates with at least SOME degree of safer driving, on the average. But I also suspect that if we took a random sample of 100 Bogleheads, asked them to self-evaluate their driving, then stuck monitoring gizmos on their cars to rate for ACTUAL driving slip-ups, that their might be more than a handful of disconnects between the self-evaluations and the reality...

EDIT: And, after posting the above, I realize it's drifting a bit away from the actionable, which was LadyGeek's concern a few posts up. I guess I'm just trying to say that the average driver is, well, average. If you're so far above average that you're safe in a 1992 Taurus, or even a 1975 Datsun, good for you. Personally, I recognize that I, my spouse, or my children have a non-trivial chance to be in an accident in, say, the next 10 years (or maybe a situation where technology could prevent an accident). That doesn't negate the value of safe driving (and imparting that to our kids, as they learn), but I recognize my humanity, (some of) my imperfections and weaknesses, and my occasional bad luck...

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Re: Aren't we overdoing electronic auto safety features?

Post by ThankYouJack » Fri May 15, 2015 10:41 pm

Before anyone rules out adaptive cruise control, be sure to test it out. If you use cruise control, you'll want adaptive cruise control. It's awesome never having to adjust cruise control speed (if someone slows down, speeds up, cuts in front of you, etc) and I don't consider it a safety feature, but more a convenience feature.

Coming from an 8 year old Civic to a car loaded with safety features, I'm all for safety features. Most people think they're better drivers than they actually are. Most accidents are caused by human error and not the car or safety features malfunctioning.

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Re: Aren't we overdoing electronic auto safety features?

Post by randomguy » Fri May 15, 2015 11:09 pm

robert88 wrote:
psteinx wrote: A few more thoughts from me:

1) Apparently, many who post here live in Lake Wobegon, and are above average drivers with below average risks.
I don't think Lake Wobegon is as crazy as it sounds at first when you consider these statistics:

1. In 1/3 of fatal car crashes, at least one of the drivers was alcohol impaired.
2. In 18% of driver deaths, a driver was under the influence of a drug under than alcohol.
3. In 30% of fatal car accidents, at least one vehicle was speeding.
4. In 26% of car accidents, one of the drivers was either talking on their cell or texting.

What does it take to be an above average driver, at least in the sense of having a below average risk of being the responsible party in a serious accident? Follow all the traffic laws. It's really that simple.


93% of americans think they are above average (http://www.cheapcarinsurance.net/above-average-driver/). By definition, a good chunk of them are wrong:). You forgot one big stat. ~50% (40-60% depending on the source) of the people that die in crashes are not wearing seat belts. Yes in 2015. You can control that. You can also control when you drive (avoiding 12 am - 3am for the drunks, night in general) and a few other behavior things. At a certain point though you end up living in fear of low probability events.

The problem with evaluating the cost is that death is a small portion. You are like 300 times more likely to be in an accident without a fatality. Stats suggest the average driver has one every 18 years with a cost of ~5k (I think this was a median and it was from several years ago). If you knew that the accident rate was reduced by lets say 20% and you could figure out your auto insurance savings by avoiding accidents/driving a safer car, you could try and come up with a certain amount to pay for the system. Throw in some fudge factor to account for extreme cases and you could use that number for how much to pay. You would need to be a total nerd to do that:)

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