CAS Formal Comment: NHTSA Fails the AV Test

August 31, 2020

Office of the Administrator
c/o James C. Owens, Deputy Administrator

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Docket Management Facility
U.S. Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Avenue SE

West Building, Ground Floor, Room W12-140 Washington, DC 20590-0001

Submitted electronically via

RE: Agency Information Collection Activities; Notice and Request for Comment Automated Vehicle Transparency and Engagement for Safe Testing (AV TEST) Initiative, Docket No. DOT-NHTSA–2020–0070

Dear Deputy Administrator Owens,

The Center for Auto Safety (“the Center”) appreciates the opportunity to provide comments on the notice and request for comment regarding the Automated Vehicle Transparency and Engagement for Safe Testing (AV TEST) initiative. The Center, founded in 1970, is an independent, member supported, non-profit consumer advocacy organization dedicated to improving vehicle safety, quality, and fuel economy. In 2020, we are celebrating 50 years of advocacy for consumer automotive safety and informed choice.

The AV TEST initiative offers the opportunity for companies testing vehicles equipped with automated driving systems (ADS) to submit information to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and purports to be undertaken for the purpose of providing “information to the public about ADS testing operations in the U.S. and applicable State and local laws, regulations, and guidelines.”1 Unfortunately for that public, the AV TEST initiative will provide little, if any, relevant safety information. In the best case scenario the result would be a map identifying only those manufacturers who choose to participate, and in the worst case a collage of unreliable data masquerading as proof of safety with a veneer of respectability provided by NHTSA’s implicit endorsement.

NHTSA’s continued refusal to write rules mandating the submission of safety performance data by ADS manufacturers, means the AV TEST initiative will only provide the public with “access to geographic visualizations of testing at the national, State, and local levels.”2 There should be no confusion, the AV TEST initiative proposal provides no reason to believe the government will gather data intended to demonstrate ADS testing is conducted safely, or to determine if such testing presents a danger to the public. Since NHTSA has chosen not to write rules and prefers to enforce the rules in place with a light hand or none at all, perhaps the public would be better off with a map that simply told them what parts of the country to avoid.