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June 23, 2022 9:43 AM, EDT

NHTSA Reports ADS, ADAS 12-Month Crash Data

Embark truckAutonomous trucking company Embark says it has never been involved in a NHTSA- or Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration-reportable crash since it was founded in 2016. (Embark)

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In a recent report, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, for the first time, collected and analyzed data on crashes involving vehicles using SAE Level 2 advanced driver assistance systems, and separately, SAE Levels 3-5 automated driving systems.

While not comprehensive, the crash data — which manufacturers and operators of the vehicles report — are important and provide the agency with immediate information about crashes that occur with vehicles that have various levels of automated systems deployed at least 30 seconds before the crash occurred, according to NHTSA.

“As we gather more data, NHTSA will be able to better identify any emerging risks or trends and learn more about how these technologies are performing in the real world,” NHTSA Administrator Steven Cliff said.

Steven Cliff

Cliff

NHTSA will now issue monthly reports.

Big hopes are riding, for instance, on technology-laden autonomous trucks going into everyday use in specific situations eventually, which advocates believe will be far safer and more efficient compared with trucks humans drive.

And trucks and automobiles with Level 2 technology — driving-support features — are increasingly common, NHTSA said.

The report came as experts noted 42,915 people died in motor vehicle crashes in 2021, a 10.5% increase compared with the previous year.

NHTSA’s initial observations were: Since the reporting requirements began in June 2021, one crash reported for an ADS-equipped vehicle resulted in serious injuries, and 108 of the crashes resulted in no injuries. Of the 130 reported crashes for ADS-equipped vehicles, 108 involved collisions with another vehicle and 11 involved a vulnerable road user, such as a pedestrian or cyclist.

For vehicles with SAE L2 ADAS, the data show that alleged serious injuries or a fatality occurred in 11 of the 98 crashes in which information on injuries was reported. Of the reported crashes for SAE L2 ADAS, at least 116 of the collisions were with another vehicle, and at least four involved a vulnerable road user.

Richard Bishop

Bishop

“Looking at NHTSA reports on both ADAS and ADS, the striking point on vehicle is telling,” Richard Bishop, an adviser to several autonomous trucking technology companies (including Plus, Gatik, SoloAVT and RR.AI) told Transport Topics. “For ADAS, it was generally the front of the vehicle that collided with an object, indicating a typical crash in which the driver was possibly distracted.”

He said when you consider the number of ADAS-equipped vehicles on the road, it is important to remember that those are very low numbers.

“For ADS it was generally the rear, indicating the automated vehicle was hit from behind by another driver, which could mean the ADS vehicle was not at fault,” Bishop said.

NHTSA cautioned it could not normalize the data by the number of vehicles a manufacturer or developer has deployed or by vehicle miles traveled. That information, it noted, is held by manufacturers and not currently reported to NHTSA.

“Thus, these data cannot be used to compare the safety of manufacturers against one another,” the agency noted.

Autonomous trucking technology developer Embark said NHTSA’s data listed three crashes involving autonomous trucks across the industry over the past year out of 130 total reported ADS-involved crashes across all vehicle types (ride hailing, shuttle services and delivering goods), “showing the industry’s strong progress.”

Embark also noted NHTSA required developers of ADS, such as Embark, to report all public road crashes while ADAS developers are only required to report more severe crashes such as those resulting in hospitalization or death.

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Since its founding in 2016, Embark (the only ADS company to reach out to TT) reported it has never been involved in a NHTSA- or Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration-reportable crash.

The report also landed as developers of autonomous truck technology and software move to ensure a self-driving truck can interact with law enforcement personnel if in an accident or disabled on the side of the road.

That was a key point of discussion recently at the inaugural Automated Goods Movement Summit hosted by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International.

Another trade group, the Autonomous Vehicle Industry Association, noted in a statement NHTSA’s data confirms the strong safety record of AV technology, and testing and deployment procedures. It also appreciated the report “clearly delineates between AVs and driver-assist as distinct technologies.”

The association’s members are in the technology, automobile, ride-hailing and trucking sectors.

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