The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has ordered automakers to report any crashes involving vehicles that are fully or partially automated.
According to a report in the Associated Press, this move by NHTSA indicates that the agency is taking a tougher stance on automated vehicle safety than in the past. So far, the watchdog has been reluctant to issue any new regulations of the new technology over fears that it could hamper the adoption of these modern systems, which are often viewed as the way of the future.
But this new step will help to ensure self-driving vehicles are safe enough to be on the road.
How the Data Will Help
NHTSA’s order essentially requires vehicle makers, equipment manufacturers, and companies that operate the vehicles to report crashes on public roads involving fully automated vehicles or vehicles with driver-assist systems. This will help the agency have access to important data by which it could identify safety issues that could arise in these new automated systems, officials said. They said it will help them look for potential safety defects and that the information could cause it to send out a crash investigation team or open a defect investigation.
This order comes on the heels of NHTSA assigning special investigation teams to look into 31 crashes involving partially automated driver-assisted systems since June 2016. Of those crashes, 25 involved Tesla’s Autopilot system, and 10 deaths were reported. Tesla and other manufacturers warn that drivers of these vehicles should be alert and ready to intervene at all times. The agency also is investigating non-fatal crashes involving partially automated systems in a Lexus RX450H, a Volvo XC-90, and two Cadillac CT6s.
Future of Automated Systems
Safety advocates say collecting crash data can help serve a number of purposes including enforcing current laws, ensuring the safety of consumers, and paving the way for reasonable regulations to encourage the deployment of safe advanced vehicle technology. Under this new order, automakers must report crashes involving automated and semi-automated vehicles within one day of learning about them if they involve a hospital-treated injury, a death, airbag deployment, or if pedestrians or bicyclists were injured.
As auto defect lawyers, we welcome this new order, which will no doubt give us all valuable data and show us how this new technology can be improved and made safer. It is imperative that autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles be regulated and subjected to diligent testing so consumers are not put in harm’s way.