It's troubling this wasn't required until now.
Like it or not, fully autonomous vehicles are coming. Eventually. No one knows exactly when they'll be ready for mass production, but companies like Waymo and Cruise recently gained permits for road testing in the San Francisco Bay Area. Go there and chances are you'll soon begin seeing heavily modified versions of the Jaguar I-Pace and Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid wearing Waymo badges cruising around town driverless. But oddly enough both of these companies, and the 100 or so more currently developing autonomous and driver assistance technologies, were not required to report crashes to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Previously, the federal government safety agency found out about incidents from local and national news coverage, just like the rest of the public. That's no longer acceptable.
First reported by Car and Driver, NHTSA released a new Standing General Order that requires all of these tech companies to inform the feds of crashes. The previous White House administration balked at the idea of doing this because it didn't want to harm innovation with more regulations. But we're talking about human lives here and there needs to be more oversight.
Tech companies and carmakers alike, including Tesla and General Motors, must submit specific crash information whenever there's been an accident when a vehicle's Automated Driving Systems or Level 2 Advanced Driver Assistance Systems, like Tesla's Autopilot, were engaged at the time.
"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," the agency writes.
Requiring automakers to hand over crash info is nothing new. They've been required to do so for years whenever a vehicle's airbags are deployed, when a passenger is injured or killed, or if a pedestrian or bicyclist was somehow involved. Not surprisingly, safety advocates have applauded the NHTSA's decision but there haven't been any comments from the tech companies or automakers so far.