US Transportation Agency Launches Automated Vehicle Testing Initiative (AV TEST Initiative)

The US Department of Transportation, via the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), has launched the Automated Vehicle Transparency and Engagement for Safe Testing Initiative (the AV TEST Initiative), a program aimed at promoting safety and transparency in the development and testing of vehicles equipped with automated driving systems (ADS). The Initiative follows NHTSA’s prior announcement of proposed regulations that would update and revise safety standards for vehicles equipped with ADS, on which we previously reported.

The Initiative will utilize an open-data online platform allowing participants to voluntarily share on-road testing data of automated vehicles with the public. Data points include vehicle types and uses, dates, frequency, vehicle counts, and routes. Additionally, the platform intends to provide users with mapping tools that will display testing locations at the local, state, and national levels. More information is available here. Per US Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. “[t]hrough this initiative, the [Transportation] Department is creating a formal platform for Federal, State, and local government to coordinate and share information in a standard way.”

The voluntary nature of the Initiative, however, drew immediate criticism. For example, the Advocates for Highway & Auto Safety, a US road safety organization, released a statement noting that “at least 80 companies are testing autonomous vehicles [while] only 20 have submitted safety assessments to the US DOT under the current voluntary guidelines … which have been in place for nearly four years.” Instead, the group urged NHTSA to address automated vehicle testing and safety via mandatory regulations.

Notwithstanding, the Initiative is underway and is open to all stakeholders involved in the testing and eventual deployment of ADS vehicles. Nine companies and eight states have signed on as first participants in the Initiative. The participating companies are: Beep, Cruise, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Local Motors, Navya, Nuro, Toyota, Uber, and Waymo. Participating states at this time are California, Florida, Maryland, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Utah.

Joseph Falcone

Joseph Falcone
Partner, Disputes, New York
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