Vehicle technology is advancing too fast for transport regulating agencies such as the NHTSA to catch up. In its effort to catch up with technology, the NHTSA is taking steps to understand new technologies, which will, in turn, influence the creation of laws to govern the use of advanced driver assist technologies on the road.
In mid-June, the NHTSA released its initial findings on data collected from vehicles with SAE level 2 Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS).
NHTSA Standing Order
These findings are based on data made available to the agency by automakers following a standing order by the NHTSA, which came into effect in June 2021. The standing order requires all vehicle manufacturers to report all crashes involving vehicles with ADAS, driver habits in relation to using the technology, and possible flaws in the ADAS feature.
The NHTSA’s standing order stipulates the types of accidents and the circumstances under which the entities must report a crash. For instance, the automakers must report an accident if it occurs within 30 seconds of activating an advanced driver assist feature.
Other reporting circumstances include crashes involving a vulnerable road user and crashes that result in a fatality, airbag deployment, and vehicle tow away. Also, the automakers must report all accidents involving a vehicle transporting a person to the hospital, such as an ambulance.
Human Operators Needed for All Vehicles on American Roads
Vehicles with a level 2 ADAS require a licensed human operator in the driver’s seat while on the road. The human operator is also responsible for controlling the vehicle and must remain engaged in controlling the vehicle at all times, even when they engage a feature that can help guide a vehicle in certain circumstances, like driving on a highway.
The NHTSA reported 392 level 2 ADAS technology-related vehicle crashes from June 2021. The NHTSA is also tracking crashes involving ADAS Levels 3-5. Levels 3-5 ADAS vehicles have much more advanced features, with level 5 being vehicles with full autonomy.
The most advanced SAE level ADAS allowable on American roads is level 4 ADAS. Level four vehicles can move from point A to point B with very little human intervention or none at all. However, a licensed driver must be in the driver’s seat to control the vehicle in case the feature fails to work as expected.
Reporting Relatively Easy
While the NHTSA is collecting data for other levels of ADAS, the main focus is on level 2 ADAS because they are almost a must-have for all new vehicles. This approach by the NHTSA ensures safer roads even as American roads have seen record-high fatalities for the past two years. Going forward, the agency hopes to release new metrics per month.
Reporting crashes for this class of vehicles may not be much of a challenge because the vehicles have telematic capabilities. The data produced cannot be used to gauge the safety of the given car models because vehicle models can vary widely in the number of vehicles released.
Also, the vehicle miles traveled per model are not factored in. “These metrics are merely to collect data that help the agency understand the technologies better and maybe help in creating laws that could help make vehicles safer,” says car accident lawyer Christopher Largey of the Largey Law Firm. Understanding the story told by the data collected may take time, but it will eventually bear fruits that will translate into safer roads.