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NHTSA Orders Automated Driving System Crash Reporting

July 8, 2021
Self-driving vehicles also are targeted by the agency order.

If you have driven a recent model car, you are well acquainted with all of the bleeps, blurps and whines emitted whenever you leave a traffic lane or come too close to another vehicle. We are told these are designed to improve safety, and they are essential elements of future driverless automotive technology. However, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) wants to know if that really is the case.

The agency has ordered companies involved in the manufacture of automated vehicle systems, including components and technology, to file crash reports if the SAE Level 2 advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) or SAE Levels 3-5 automated driving system (ADS) was engaged immediately before or during a road crash. The data must be reported on a monthly basis.

ADS-equipped self-driving vehicles, which are able to perform the complete driving task in limited circumstances, are not currently sold to consumers but are in limited use on public roads around the country for testing, ride sharing and goods delivery, the agency pointed out.

“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 NHTSA acting administrator Steven Cliff. “In fact, gathering data will help instill public confidence that the federal government is closely overseeing the safety of automated vehicles.”

The agency said “notice” of a crash is defined broadly and means information received from any internal or external source about an incident that occurred or is alleged to have occurred, regardless of whether the manufacturer has verified those facts. The information can be in any form, including electronic, written and verbal. Sources may include vehicle reports, test reports, crash reports, media reports, consumer or customer reports, claims, demands and lawsuits.

In addition, NHTSA’s order requires:

• 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.

The order requires vehicle and equipment (including software) manufacturers of Level 2 ADAS or Levels 3-5 ADS systems and vehicles and operators of ADS-equipped vehicles to report crashes where the Level 2 ADAS or Level 3-5 ADS system was engaged during or immediately before the crash.

“These data will help the agency identify potential safety issues and impacts resulting from the operation of advanced technologies on public roads and increase transparency,” NHTSA said. “Access to ADS data may show whether there are common patterns in driverless vehicle crashes or systematic problems in operation.”

NHTSA stressed that its oversight is not limited to the specified crashes discussed in the order or the information submitted under its reporting obligations. The agency said its review and analysis will include all information and incidents relevant to any potential safety defects.

Reports will be publicly available except in limited cases when NHTSA agrees that the report contains confidential business information, such as whether the vehicle was within its operational design domain at the time of the incident, note attorneys Robert Love and Jiwan Sangha of the law firm of Borden Ladner Gervais.

In addition, NHTSA may take further actions on any individual crash, including sending a Special Crash Investigations team and requiring the company to provide additional information. It also may also open defect investigations, as warranted.

The agency also urges the public to contact it if they think their vehicle may have a safety defect that is not part of a current recall. NHTSA can be contacted online or by calling the agency’s Vehicle Safety Hotline at 888-327-4236, Monday through Friday, 8 am to 8 pm ET.

About the Author

David Sparkman

David Sparkman is founding editor of ACWI Advance (www.acwi.org), the newsletter of the American Chain of Warehouses Inc. He also heads David Sparkman Consulting, a Washington D.C. area public relations and communications firm. Prior to these he was director of industry relations for the International Warehouse Logistics Association. Sparkman has also been a freelance writer, specializing in logistics and freight transportation. He has served as vice president of communications for the American Moving and Storage Association, director of communications for the National Private Truck Council, and for two decades with American Trucking Associations on its weekly newspaper, Transport Topics.

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