On June 29, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) issued an order requiring autonomous vehicle and advance driver assistance systems manufacturers and operators to report serious crashes within a day of learning of them.  The order applies specifically to manufacturers and operators of vehicles equipped with SAE Level 2 advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) or SAE Levels 3-5 automated driving systems (ADS).

As the rationale for this order, the NHTSA cited the unusual risks ADS and ADAS pose.  The order contends that ADS poses “new and unique risks” to automotive safety, because they “fundamentally alter the nature of motor vehicles and their operation.”  The order also notes the “safety risks to occupants” of ADAS-operated vehicles, “in part due to the unconventional division of responsibility between the vehicle and its human driver” – particularly drivers unduly relying upon the system.

The new NHTSA order requires:

  • 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.

Additionally, 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.

The NHTSA provides for carve-outs for confidential business information, but the order limits them. Under the order, covered entities may claim confidential business information protection for (1) the version of the ADAS/ADS with which a vehicle is equipped; (2) whether the vehicle was within its operational design domain (ODD) at the time of the incident; and (3) the narrative. However, the NHTSA does not guarantee that claiming that this information is confidential ensures that the information will be kept confidential.