November 22, 2019 10:30 AM, EST

NHTSA Requests Comment on Draft Test Procedures for Driver Assistance Systems

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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is seeking public comment on draft research test procedures to assess certain types of advanced driver assistance systems.

ADAS refers to technologies that can help improve driver safety, such as automatic emergency brakes and lane-departure warning systems. According to a document published in the Federal Register on Nov. 21, the agency is looking for comment on whether nine draft research test procedures adequately assess ADAS performance in a test track environment.

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“NHTSA intends to use these draft research test procedures to further its research goals by using the output from clearly defined test methods to help better understand system operation, performance and potential limitations,” the Federal Register document states.

The draft procedures NHTSA is studying pertain to both light and heavy vehicles. NHTSA categorizes any vehicle that weighs more than 10,000 pounds, such as a truck or bus, as a heavy vehicle.

For heavy vehicles, NHTSA is seeking comment on procedures related to forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking systems. The procedures pertaining to light vehicles include: active parking assist, blind spot warnings, intersection safety assist, opposing traffic safety assist, pedestrian automatic emergency braking, rear automatic braking and traffic jam assist.

“NHTSA highlights that some of the research test procedures included in this [request for comments] are in the early stages of development, while others are closer to being fully developed,” the document states.

Each draft procedure includes scenarios replicating real-world crash situations that are meant to be performed on a test track. They include specifications on test conduct, covering equipment, facilities and instructions.

The nine draft test procedures listed in the notice are for research purposes only. NHTSA uses these procedures to evaluate technology and provide the public with a basis for which gaps in test methodology may be resolved.

The agency’s test procedures are generally developed to inform research, rulemaking or the New Car Assessment Program. The New Car Assessment Program tests vehicle performance in crash scenarios and uses a 5-star scale to rate safety. Rulemaking test procedures are used to support identified rulemaking efforts and help determine that technological systems are compliant with the level of performance defined in adopted regulations.

NHTSA is accepting public comment through Jan. 21, 2020. The Federal Register document notes the fact that NHTSA is researching a technology does not mean the agency will create a rulemaking related to that technology.

NHTSA was criticized at a Nov. 19 National Transportation Safety Board hearing that was focused on a fatal 2018 pedestrian crash involving an Uber Technologies Inc. automated vehicle that occurred in Arizona. During the hearing, NTSB board member Jennifer Homendy said that, while NHTSA may be issuing guidance related to automated vehicle testing, the agency is failing to establish firm testing standards.

In one of his last official actions as Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrator, Ray Martinez announced the launch of a project to promote ADAS. Martinez left his post in late October and is now overseeing the construction of the Department of Transportation’s new John A. Volpe Transportation Systems Center in Cambridge, Mass.

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