Crash Themes in Automated Vehicles: A Topic Modeling Analysis of the California Department of Motor Vehicles Automated Vehicle Crash Database

01/29/2020 ∙ by Hananeh Alambeigi, et al. ∙ 0

Automated vehicle technology promises to reduce the societal impact of traffic crashes. Early investigations of this technology suggest that significant safety issues remain during control transfers between the automation and human drivers and automation interactions with the transportation system. In order to address these issues, it is critical to understand both the behavior of human drivers during these events and the environments where they occur. This article analyzes automated vehicle crash narratives from the California Department of Motor Vehicles automated vehicle crash database to identify safety concerns and gaps between crash types and current areas of focus in the current research. The database was analyzed using probabilistic topic modeling of open-ended crash narratives. Topic modeling analysis identified five themes in the database: driver-initiated transition crashes, sideswipe crashes during left-side overtakes, and rear-end collisions while the vehicle was stopped at an intersection, in a turn lane, and when the crash involved oncoming traffic. Many crashes represented by the driver-initiated transitions topic were also associated with the side-swipe collisions. A substantial portion of the side-swipe collisions also involved motorcycles. These findings highlight previously raised safety concerns with transitions of control and interactions between vehicles in automated mode and the transportation social network. In response to these findings, future empirical work should focus on driver-initiated transitions, overtakes, silent failures, complex traffic situations, and adverse driving environments. Beyond this future work, the topic modeling analysis method may be used as a tool to monitor emergent safety issues.

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