US agency orders automated vehicle makers to report crashes

DETROIT (AP) — The US government’s highway safety agency has ordered automakers to report any crashes involving fully autonomous vehicles or partially automated driver assist systems.

The move Tuesday by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicates the agency is taking a tougher stance on automated vehicle safety than in the past. It’s been reluctant to issue any regulations of the new technology for fear of hampering adoption of the potentially life-saving technology.

The order requires vehicle and equipment manufacturers and operators to report crashes on public roads involving fully autonomous vehicles, or those in which driver assist systems were operating immediately before or during a crash.

“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,” NHTSA Acting Administrator Steven Cliff said in a statement.

The agency says it will look for potential safety defects, and the information could cause it to send out a crash investigation team or open a defect investigation.

The order comes after NHTSA has dispatched crash investigation teams to 31 crashes involving partially automated driver assist systems since June of 2015. Such systems can keep a vehicle centered in its lane and a safe distance from vehicles in front of it. Of those crashes, 25 involved Tesla’s Autopilot system in which 10 deaths were reported, according to data released by the agency.

Tesla and other manufacturers warn that drivers using the systems must be ready to intervene at all times. Teslas using the system have crashed into semis crossing in front of them, stopped emergency vehicles and a roadway barrier.

The agency also is investigating non-fatal crashes involving partially automated systems in a Lexus RX450H, a Volvo XC-90, and two Cadillac CT6s. In addition, teams investigated crashes involving an automated Navya Arma low-speed shuttle, and another Volvo XC90 operated by Uber in which a pedestrian was killed in Arizona.