NHTSA Releases Initial Data on Safety Performance of Advanced Vehicle Technologies

as part of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s efforts to increase roadway safety and encourage innovation, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration published the initial round of data it has collected through its Standing General Order issued last year and initial accompanying reports summarizing this data.

The SAE Level 2 advanced driver assistance systems summary report is available here, while the SAE Levels 3-5 automated driving systems summary report is available here. Going forward, NHTSA will release data updates monthly.

These data reflect a set of crashes that automakers and operators reported to NHTSA from the time the Standing General Order was issued last June. While not comprehensive, the data are important and provide NHTSA with immediate information about crashes that occur with vehicles that have various levels of automated systems deployed at least 30 seconds before the crash occurred.

“The data released today are part of our commitment to transparency, accountability and public safety,” said Dr. Steven Cliff, NHTSA’s Administrator. “New vehicle technologies have the potential to help prevent crashes, reduce crash severity and save lives, and the Department is interested in fostering technologies that are proven to do so; collecting this data is an important step in that effort. As we gather more data, NHTSA will be able to better identify any emerging risks or trends and learn more about how these technologies are performing in the real world.”

This new data is the first of its kind, and the reports detail several important caveats and limitations to this dataset for researchers, the press and the public to consider. For a clear understanding of the data, users should read about the data limitations and the sources that manufacturers and operators used to collect and report crashes.

For example, some reporting entities provide the agency with robust data more quickly because their vehicles are equipped with telematics capabilities. Telematics is the most frequently cited source for data collected currently by the Standing General Order. Manufacturers and operators also rely on consumer complaints to begin collecting data, which are the second-largest source for L2 ADAS, and field reports, the second-largest source for ADS. Further, these data are not normalized by the number of vehicles a manufacturer or developer has deployed or by vehicle miles traveled. That information is held by manufacturers and not currently reported to NHTSA. Thus, these data cannot be used to compare the safety of manufacturers against one another.

Some initial observations from the data show that since reporting requirements began, one crash reported for an ADS-equipped vehicle resulted in serious injuries, and 108 of the crashes resulted in no injuries. Of the 130 reported crashes for ADS-equipped vehicles, 108 involved collisions with another vehicle, and 11 involved a vulnerable road user, such as a pedestrian or cyclist.

For vehicles with SAE L2 ADAS, the data show that alleged serious injuries or a fatality occurred in 11 of the 98 crashes where information on injuries was reported. Of the reported crashes for SAE L2 ADAS, at least 116 of the collisions were with another vehicle, and at least four involved a vulnerable road user.

The SGO, issued in June 2021, requires for the first time that manufacturers and operators of vehicles equipped with SAE L2 ADAS or SAE Levels 3-5 ADS report to NHTSA certain crashes when the systems are engaged. The SGO is a first step toward helping the Department take a more data-driven approach to ensuring that AV technology is deployed safely and will help inform future actions, including those to educate consumers and build confidence in advanced vehicle technologies. 

This effort comes at an important time as L2 ADAS are increasingly common features on many new vehicles and provide driver assistance functions that also combine technologies, like lane centering assistance and adaptive cruise control. Drivers, though, must remain engaged and alert at all times when using these systems, as they are not designed to and are not able to perform critical operating components of the driving task. These vehicles include driving support features, not automated driving features.

ADS-equipped vehicles, which are able to perform the complete driving task in limited circumstances, are not currently sold to consumers. They are in limited use on public roads around the country for testing various mobility types, including ride hailing, shuttle services, and delivering goods. Interest in more widespread deployment has continued to grow. 

The Department and NHTSA seek to foster innovation and safe adoption of these technologies, which, if done right, hold great promise to improve roadway safety. NHTSA is collecting this data on advanced vehicle technologies and exploring other opportunities to support safe innovation as part of NHTSA’s core responsibility to ensure vehicle safety.