The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has ordered all vehicle operators and automakers to regularly report crashes involving vehicles equipped with driver-assistance systems, now including the vehicle, equipment and software manufactures. It sounds like common sense for an organization that really has some catching up to do.
Here’s what today’s order published to NHTSA’s website outlines for the new requirements:
NHTSA’s order requires covered entities to report crashes that occur on public roads in the United States based on the following:
- 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 formal order document, which you can download from NHTSA here, defines “ADAS” as an Advanced Driver Assistance System further defined as a “Level 1 or Level 2 system,” and “ADS” as an Automated Driving System specified either a “Level 3, Level 4, or a Level 5 system.” The press release further specifies its definitions with the following examples:
Level 2 ADAS is an increasingly common feature on many new vehicles and provides driver assist functions that combine technologies, like lane centering assistance and adaptive cruise control, where the vehicle is able to control certain aspects of steering and speed. Drivers, though, must remain engaged and alert at all times when using these systems, as they are not designed and not able to perform critical operating components of the driving task.
ADS-equipped 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.
Critically, manufacturers are only required to report if the crash event occurred while the systems were engaged, or just after they had been engaged, according to NHTSA’s release:
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.
Further, the “General Order requires you to submit reports to NHTSA on a prospective basis. It requires reports of incidents of which you receive notice ten (10) calendar days or more 10 after being served with this General Order. This is a standing reporting obligation, which shall continue for three (3) years after the date of this General Order.” So if owners or law enforcement don’t report the incident, it’s still somewhat of a good faith reporting system for manufacturers to hold themselves accountable to.
The potential consequences of a manufacturer not complying with the new order were addressed in a virtual press conference. From Automotive News:
Any company that fails to comply with the order could face “serious enforcement consequences” as well as “substantial civil penalties,” Ann Carlson, NHTSA’s chief counsel, said during a virtual press conference Tuesday.
Carlson said the crash reporting requirements are specific to vehicle and equipment manufacturers and vehicle operators of these systems. The order does not apply to consumers or other companies such as auto dealerships, but does apply to prototype vehicles and systems.
“If a company has no reportable crashes, it will still be required to file a monthly report stating so,” she said.
The move seems like a significant double-down given the government’s admittedly limited oversight of developmental automated programs on public roads so far.
Though, NHTSA has opened investigations into three Tesla crashes implicating its Autopilot driver-assistance system, with 26 more cases pending Autopilot involvement, since 2016 alone. The organization also investigated the fatal Uber test-program pedestrian crash and numerous other crash events from other manufacturers in NHTSA and the federal government’s encouraged period of limited oversight up until now.
So the increase in oversight into more manufactures of the various components actually seems somewhat overdue at this stage, but it’s something.