NHTSA expands voluntary data-sharing program on AV testing


NHTSA has expanded a voluntary program designed to gather and share data on the testing and development of automated driving systems nationwide.

NHTSA’s Automated Vehicle Transparency and Engagement for Safe Testing (AV TEST) Initiative launched in June with the goal of providing the public with more access to data on AV testing and other information from states on local AV activity, legislation and regulation.

The agency on Monday said the pilot version has transitioned into a full program open to all stakeholders.

Previously, nine companies and nine states had signed up to participate, including Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Toyota Motor Corp., Uber Technologies Inc., Waymo and Cruise — General Motors’ majority-owned self-driving subsidiary. States included California, Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas.

With the expansion, 52 stakeholders are now participating: 26 companies such as self-driving technology developers Valeo and Argo AI as well as 23 states and local governments and three associations, NHTSA Deputy Administrator James Owens said.

“The AV TEST Initiative is one of several programs underway at NHTSA to help address safety and innovation in the rapidly changing world of transportation,” Owens said in prepared remarks. “The auto industry is undergoing a technological revolution, and tens of billions of dollars have been invested in automation research and development that hold the potential one day to fundamentally change the way we drive and dramatically reduce vehicle-related deaths and injuries.”

The expanded program comes after NHTSA in September launched an online tracking tool that allows the public to view certain information submitted by states and companies that are testing vehicles equipped with automated driving systems on U.S. roadways.

Critics, including the Center for Auto Safety and the National Transportation Safety Board, have urged NHTSA to mandate federal safety standards for automated driving systems, while some industry stakeholders have applauded the voluntary and flexible aspects of the program.

NHTSA’s Owens said the agency has not yet issued new performance standards for automated driving systems because “this technology is still far from its endpoint.”

“To regulate technologies before they are market-ready could stifle their development and thus, their lifesaving potential,” he said. “Worse still, regulating without a full understanding of the technology could risk regulating the wrong aspects of performance and potentially lead to unexpected negative safety consequences in other ways.”

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