U.S. safety regulators issued an order mandating the reporting of data from vehicles with advanced safety systems involved in crashes.
Officials at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration claim the move should reduce the amount of time needed to identify safety problems. Vehicles with SAE Level 2 advanced driver assistance systems, also known as semi-autonomous vehicles, as well as SAE Levels 3-5 automated driving systems must report crashes.
The new requirement comes as millions of Americans continue to express doubt about the viability of semi-autonomous and autonomous vehicle technology.
Additionally, NHTSA has opened 30 investigations into crashes involving Tesla vehicles equipped with Autopilot. The agency ruled out Autopilot as a cause in three of those while issuing reports on two of the crashes.
NHTSA and the National Transportation Safety Board have conducted numerous investigations during the last several years and concluded that Autopilot, as well as driver error, have been involved in several fatal crashes.
Benefits of the new mandate
“NHTSA’s core mission is safety. By mandating crash reporting, the agency will have access to critical data that will help quickly identify safety issues that could emerge in these automated systems,” said Dr. Steven Cliff, NHTSA’s Acting Administrator. “In fact, gathering data will help instill public confidence that the federal government is closely overseeing the safety of automated vehicles.”
Sam Abuelsamid, principal auto analyst at Guidehouse Insights, noted one thing the agency will look for in that early reporting is information about when Autopilot disengages.
“An issue with Tesla is that many people have complained that they thought they were on Autopilot but it appears the system deactivated before the crash,” he said. “The unanswered question is when did it disengage: a second, a minute? Was it ever engaged?”
In fact, the data from immediately before crash is one of the specific points NHTSA laid out in the announcement revealing the new rule. Also, since the technology is still relatively new, collecting info quicky provides transparency, benefiting the consumer.
“Given the current lack of ADAS recalls — or regulations or laws governing either ADAS or Automated Driving Systems — collecting crash data and sharing it is the very least the government can do in order to provide the public with access to uniform data by which to compare one manufacturer’s safety record to another,” said Jason Levine, executive director at the watchdog organization Center for Auto Safety.
The Center for Auto Safety is among the critics of Tesla and its Autopilot technology. They’ve pointed to the name of the technology and what they perceive as the EV maker’s less-than-strident push to warn buyers about the limits of the technology. However, in recent months, Tesla’s taken steps to bolster safeguards making it more difficult to “cheat” the technology.
Perhaps the biggest move is the installation of a camera trained on the driver that can take steps to mitigate in appropriate behavior behind the wheel. The company’s also been more vocal about the limitations of the technology.
Tesla not the only automaker
Tesla with its Autopilot garners the most attention, but it’s not the only automaker that will be subjected to the new reporting mandate. General Motors (SuperCruise), Ford (BlueCruise), Nissan (ProPilot Assist) and others will now need to report a crash within one day of the event, and a follow up with more details within 10 days.
Other requirements automakers must now meet include:
- Every month, companies must report all other crashes involving an ADS-equipped vehicle that involve an injury or property damage.
- Reports must be updated monthly with new or additional information.
- Reports must be submitted for any reportable crash, about which a company receives notice, beginning 10 days after the company is served with the order.
- Reports must be submitted to NHTSA electronically using a form that requires important information regarding the crash. NHTSA will use this information to identify crashes for follow up.
NHTSA’s oversight is not limited to the specified crashes discussed in the order or the information submitted under its reporting obligations. NHTSA’s review and analysis will include all information and incidents relevant to any potential safety defects.
Additionally, NHTSA may take further actions on any individual crash, including sending a Special Crash Investigations team and requiring the company to provide additional information. NHTSA may also open defect investigations, as warranted.