NHTSA Orders Tesla, Others To Report Crashes Involving Automated Driver Systems

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is ordering Tesla and other automakers to report car crashes involving automated driver systems.

The order will make both vehicle and equipment manufacturers and car companies notify of crashes involving fully autonomous or partially automated cars, according to the Associated Press. The NHTSA has investigated 31 related crashes, with 25 involving Tesla vehicles' Autopilot system and 10 reported deaths, since 2015.

"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," said Steven Cliff, the NHTSA acting administrator, in a statement.

When a crash involving an automated driver system occurs, it has to be reported within 24 hours.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Tesla Model 3
Tesla Model 3 compact full electric car interior with a large touch screen on the dahsboard on display at the 2019 Concours d'Elegance at palace Soestdijk on August 25, 2019 in Baarn, Netherlands. The NHTSA is ordering Tesla and other automakers to report crashes involving automated driver systems. Sjoerd van der Wal/Getty Images

The move Tuesday by the NHTSA indicates the agency is taking a tougher stance on automated vehicle safety than in the past. It has been reluctant to issue any regulations of the new technology for fear of hampering adoption of the potentially life-saving systems.

The order requires crashes on public roads involving fully autonomous vehicles, or those in which driver-assist systems were operating immediately before or during a crash to be reported.

The agency says it will look for potential safety defects, and the information could cause it to send out a crash investigation team or open a defect investigation.

Partially automated driver-assist systems can keep a vehicle centered in its lane and a safe distance from vehicles in front of it.

Tesla and other manufacturers warn that drivers using the systems must be ready to intervene at all times. Teslas using the system have crashed into semis crossing in front of them, stopped emergency vehicles and a roadway barrier.

The agency also is investigating non-fatal crashes involving partially automated systems in a Lexus RX450H, a Volvo XC-90, and two Cadillac CT6s. In addition, teams investigated crashes involving an automated Navya Arma low-speed shuttle, and another Volvo XC90 operated by Uber in which a pedestrian was killed in Arizona.

The National Transportation Safety Board, which also has investigated some of the Tesla crashes, has recommended that NHTSA and Tesla limit Autopilot's use to areas where it can safely operate. The NTSB also recommended that NHTSA require Tesla to have a better system to make sure drivers are paying attention. NHTSA has not taken action on any of the recommendations.

Jason Levine, executive director of the nonprofit Center for Auto Safety, an advocacy group, said the crash reporting is a welcome first step by NHTSA. The center has been asking the agency to oversee automated vehicles for several years.

"Collecting crash data, and hopefully data from crashes which were avoided, can help serve a variety of purposes from enforcing current laws, to ensuring the safety of consumers, as well as paving the way for reasonable regulations to encourage the deployment of safe advanced vehicle technology," Levine said in an email.

Companies have to report crashes involving fully autonomous or partially automated vehicles if they involve a hospital-treated injury, a death, airbag deployment, pedestrians or bicyclists, or were serious enough for a vehicle to be towed away.

Other crashes involving vehicles equipped with the systems involving injury or property damage have to be reported every month. The requirement does not apply to consumers who own vehicles or auto dealers.

NHTSA says in a statement that the data can show if there are common patterns in crashes involving the systems.

Autonomous Vehicle Ride
In this April 7, 2021 file photo, a Waymo minivan moves along a city street as an empty driver's seat and a moving steering wheel drive passengers during an autonomous vehicle ride in Chandler, Ariz. The U.S. government's highway safety agency has ordered automakers to report any crashes involving fully autonomous vehicles or partially automated driver assist systems. The move Tuesday, June 29, by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicates the agency is taking a tougher stance on automated vehicle safety than in the past. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Ross D. Franklin/AP Photo