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NHTSA Launches Automated Vehicle TEST Initiative to Improve Transparency and Safety of Self-Driving Technology

June 26, 2020, Covington Alert

On June 15, 2020, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao announced the launch of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (“NHTSA”) Automated Vehicle Transparency and Engagement for Safe Testing (“AV TEST”) Initiative, a voluntary data-sharing initiative intended to improve safety, testing, and transparency of automated vehicle (“AV”) technology. The new initiative furthers the goals of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s policy guidance “Ensuring American Leadership in Automated Vehicle Technologies: Automated Vehicles 4.0” which, as previously discussed here, seeks a unified and consistent approach in AV technologies across 38 federal departments working to advance safe AV deployment.

Expected to launch in mid-to-late summer, the initiative marks NHTSA’s first attempt to share AV test data with the public. Initial participants include nine companies advancing AV technology and eight states: California, Florida, Maryland, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Utah.

The AV TEST Initiative creates a data-sharing platform for federal, state, and local governments to coordinate and share information about AV testing and technology. The public-facing platform will disclose AV testing locations, types of motor vehicles (cars, low-speed shuttles, trucks, and driverless electric delivery vehicles), and high-level, on-road testing data, such as dates, frequency, vehicle counts, and routing information. Information can be provided on a voluntary basis by all stakeholders in the AV development and testing space, including departments of transportation and motor vehicles, city governments, and such industry participants as developers, manufacturers, suppliers, operators, and testers.

The AV TEST Initiative has received broad attention and could lead to several outcomes, including acceleration of engagements and transactions between industry players, further development of voluntary industry standards, and tracking and monitoring by agencies for safety evaluation and reporting purposes.

As with prior AV guidance, certain consumer advocacy critics have responded to the AV TEST announcement with concerns about voluntary safety regulatory regimes. The Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, for example, called the voluntary aspect of the AV TEST initiative a “recipe for disaster” and noted that only 20 out of the 80+ companies testing AVs have submitted safety assessments under NHTSA’s current voluntary guidance. By contrast, AV TEST Initiative participants have expressed optimism that the initiative will advance the collective learnings of the AV industry, improve public visibility, and enhance safety.

For more on connected and autonomous vehicles and our team, please visit Covington’s Connected and Autonomous Vehicle Toolkit, and our Artificial Intelligence Toolkit. If you have any questions concerning the material discussed in this client alert, please contact the members of our autonomous vehicles team below.

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