You, robo-car maker, any serious accidents, I want to know about them, stat – US watchdog

NHTSA sets 24-hour deadline for reporting significant crashes


America's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will now require details of any and all crashes involving self-driving cars from automakers within one day of them knowing about the accident.

“NHTSA’s core mission is safety,” Steven Cliff, acting administrator of the transportation watchdog, said this week. “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.”

The new rules [PDF] apply to vehicles classified between Level 2 and 5 autonomy. That means serious prangs involving everything from Tesla’s Autopilot and FSD-enabled cars to Waymo’s driverless taxi test fleets must be disclosed to the NHTSA on the double.

We're talking accidents that involve death, cars having to be towed away, injuries requiring hospital treatment, inflated air bags, and collisions with pedestrians or bicycles. These have to be reported within one calendar day after automakers learn of the crash. A more detailed rundown of events and details is expected to be compiled and filed ten days after.

Manufacturers will also have to file monthly reports on less dangerous crashes that cause minor injuries or property damage. The NHTSA hopes that these rapid disclosures will help investigators quickly uncover any patterns in the accidents that would indicate a systemic failure in autonomous hardware and/or software. Such failures may warrant further action by the watchdog.

“NHTSA may take further actions on any individual crash, including sending a Special Crash Investigations team and requiring the company to provide additional information. NHTSA may also open defect investigations, as warranted,” it warned.

If any companies don’t comply with this deadline, they won’t get away with merely a slap on the wrist. If they don’t respond in time or hide specific details, they may have to pay up to $22,992 per violation per day in civil penalties, with a maximum penalty of $114,954,525.

While some US states, such as California, have introduced strict accident reporting standards for AI driving technology, others have been more easy going. This federal-level requirement could lead to some eye-opening stats emerging for the nation as a whole. ®


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