To increase its overall understanding of how driver-based safety technology performs and to root out any problems, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has issued a new standing general order (2021-01) for stricter crash incident reporting involving SAE Level 2 advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and Levels 3-5 automated driver systems (ADS). This includes prototype vehicles and equipment.
Under the jurisdiction of the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act, the new mandate calls for manufacturers of ADAS and ADS components and operators who use vehicles equipped with the technology—to notify NHTSA within 24 hours any crash on U.S. public roads that causes serious injury or death.Specifically, this includes crashes causing “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.”
NHTSA reasoned in the standing order: “Given the rapid evolution of these technologies and testing of new technologies and features on publicly accessible roads, it is critical for NHTSA to exercise its robust oversight over potential safety defects in vehicles operating with ADS and Level 2 ADAS.”
“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.”
More than 100 manufacturers and operators of relevant technology, from Aurora to ZF, were included on the service list, and must adhere to the reporting requirements. Along with OEs such as Bendix and Mobileye, all major automotive and truck makers were on the list. No specific fleet was mentioned, which appears to mean a carrier itself that may be testing or deploying the safety tech would not have to create an additional report. [NHTSA did not respond to questions in time for publication.]
Because the order is chock full of legal language, the companies falling under the order’s purview are still trying to figure out how this new compliance measure will impact operations, but those that did release statements appeared to initially support the spirit of the reporting process.
“The Self-Driving Coalition and NHTSA share the same goal: to significantly reduce the number of lives tragically lost each year on U.S. roads. Clear national reporting standards can be an important means to increase public understanding of autonomous vehicles. But there must be a distinction between our members’ autonomous vehicles--which do not require human intervention to operate safely--and driver assistance technology like Tesla’s, which requires an attentive driver.
“We have worked with NHTSA in a highly collaborative and transparent way, going back to the first AV guidance (FAVP 1.0) in 2016. As we review NHTSA’s new standing general order, the Coalition hopes to restart those constructive conversations so that we can work together to save lives and make our roads safer for everyone.”—Ariel Wolf, Self Driving Coalition general counsel
“ZF respects the need for a careful advancement of ADAS and Autonomous technology and is closely examining the new Standing General Order.” Ashley Van Horn, ZF North America spokesperson
“Bendix supports NHTSA’s core mission of safety and safer roads, and we have long been an active advocate for ongoing education and awareness about our technologies. We continue to stress that Bendix safety technologies complement safe driving practices. No commercial vehicle safety technology replaces a skilled, alert driver exercising safe driving techniques and proactive, comprehensive driver training. Responsibility for the safe operation of the vehicle remains with the driver at all times.”—Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems
More reporting details
The manufacturer/operator must report crashes applicable to the new rule in electronic format via the NHTSA Manufacturer Recalls Portal (MAP). An account must be created if one does not already exist. Instructions are included in the order.
The report itself is one page and includes fields for reporting entity, vehicle information, incident information, and scene, along with boxes for crash and post-crash data. Space is also provided to describe the narrative, or written description of the events leading up to, during, and after the crash.
Most of the reporting info will be made public, though NHTSA added three exceptions for confidential business information. These exceptions are the version of ADS/ADAS; if the vehicle was within its operational design domain (ODD) at the time of the crash; and the narrative portion. The manufacturer/operator must denote these exceptions and NHTSA does not guarantee they will grant the exception.