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NHTSA orders automakers to report crash data involving advanced driver assistance features

Up until now, the United States government hasn’t appeared to be too proactive when it comes to investigating crashes of vehicles with advanced driver assist systems. That officially changed with a new order from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The government agency is requiring automakers to submit detailed crash reports to the company, upon learning about the crash, for vehicles that have SALE Level 2 advanced driver assistance systems, or a Level 3 through 5 automated driving system. Since no Level 3 systems are on sale yet in the United States, the former is going to apply in most cases.

“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.”

These systems can make cars safer, but public surveys often show that many people are fearful of advanced automation behind the wheel. It doesn’t help when idiots film themselves sleeping in the back of their Teslas while it goes screaming down the road at highway speeds.

While this mandatory reporting applies to everyone, if you think that this order came about due to Tesla’s Autopilot and “Full Self Driving,” you’d likely be correct.

Here are the guidelines regarding reporting;

  • Within one day of learning of a crash, companies must report crashes involving a Level 2 ADAS or Levels 3-5 ADS-equipped vehicle that also involve a hospital-treated injury, a fatality, a vehicle tow-away, an air bag deployment, or a vulnerable road user such as a pedestrian or bicyclist. An updated report is due 10 days after learning of the crash.
  • 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.

Failure to comply with this order can result in referral to the Justice Department for civil action.

Obviously, the government wants to know more about these crashes so they can look for defects, possible recalls, and to just generally help improve the safety of the automobiles out on the road.

Independent oversight over an automaker’s safety system makes a lot of sense, especially when there is known confusion on how some of these systems work. Additionally, this adds an additional incentive to ensure that these systems are being used properly and compel automakers to make them better.

With so many drivers out there driving vehicles that have software still marked as Beta, it makes sense to see NHTSA’s actions on the matter, and we’re quite frankly surprised that this move didn’t happen sooner.

Written by Chad Kirchner
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