NHTSA Extends Comment Window on Draft Test Procedures for ADAS

Volvo Active Driver Assist
Volvo Active Driver Assist by Volvo Trucks

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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is extending the comment period for members of the public to offer feedback 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 Jan. 22, the agency is extending the public comment period to March 6. The original deadline for comments was Jan. 21.

In NHTSA’s initial call for comments, which was published in the Federal Register in late November, the agency asked for input on whether nine draft research test procedures adequately assess ADAS performance in a test track environment.

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The extension honors a request submitted by the Association of Global Automakers and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers in December. The two groups merged to form a new association called the Alliance for Automotive Innovation on Jan. 8.

“NHTSA has considered this request and determined that a 45-day extension beyond the original due date is acceptable to provide additional time for the public to comment,” 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.

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’s decision to extend the deadline arrived shortly after Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao announced that the Department of Transportation is endorsing a standardized list of recommended ADAS terminology. The list, called “Clearing the Confusion,” is a collaboration among the National Safety Council, AAA, Consumer Reports and the data analytics company J.D. Power. Chao made the announcement during her remarks at the Transportation Research Board’s annual meeting Jan. 15.

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.

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