NHTSA Autonomous Vehicle Test Web Pilot Tool Is Active

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Instead of projecting scenarios of danger and recklessness, a US federal agency is actually supporting autonomous vehicles (AVs). The National Highway Transportation Safety Association (NHTSA) has created the The Automated Vehicle Transparency and Engagement for Safe Testing (AV TEST) Initiative. The AV TEST will be a repository for data that emerges as controlled AV laboratory and track-testing on public roads takes place.

Image retrieved from transportation.gov

States and companies can voluntarily submit information about automated vehicles and testing to NHTSA as part of the AV TEST Initiative web pilot. Companies can choose which elements in a set of data elements they submit to NHTSA during this initiative, since AV TEST is a voluntary program. As a result, the tool does not represent all testing activity throughout the US — only the initial set of participants have provided.

The states involved are Arizona, California, Florida, Maryland, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Utah.

Displayed as an interactive map, the tool allows users to view testing locations and learn details about the companies involved and the types of vehicles being tested. The tracking tool is divided into 3 tabs at the top:

  • Testing Locations
  • State Info
  • Company Info.

Each clickable tab contains separate and specific information regarding automated driving systems across the nation. People also can view legislation and policies that states have developed regarding autonomous vehicles.

Participating companies are Beep, Cruise, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Local Motors, Navya, Nuro, Toyota, Uber, and Waymo.

The AV TEST initiative is an outgrowth of US federal technology goals,

“to once again transform the future of transportation, while also increasing economic growth and overall productivity. AVs — if developed properly- also have the potential to make our roadways safer by reducing crashes caused by human error, including crashes involving impaired or distracted drivers.”

The continuing evolution of US automotive technology, according to NHTSA, is to deliver even greater safety benefits and — one day — deliver automated driving systems (ADS) that can handle the whole task of driving when we don’t want to or can’t do it ourselves. The information provided to the public outlines how self-driving vehicles ultimately will integrate onto US roadways by progressing through 6 levels of driver assistance technology advancements in the coming years. This includes from no automation (where a fully engaged driver is required at all times) to full autonomy (where an automated vehicle operates independently, without a human driver).

About the AV TEST Initiative

NHTSA launched the AV TEST Initiative in June 2020 with states, local governments, and private-sector stakeholders throughout the driving automation community. The goal of the initiative is to provide the public with direct and easy access to information about testing of ADS-equipped vehicles, information from states regarding activity, legislation, regulations, local involvement in automation on our roadways, and information provided by companies developing and testing ADS.

This in turn, increases the public awareness of on-road testing, safety precautions, and principles guiding the testing. The AV TEST demonstrates how NHTSA is working with governmental and private stakeholders to facilitate the safe development, testing, integration, and education of driving automation technology in the United States.

“[The initiative] brings the department together with states, local governments and private sector stakeholders,” Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said during the unveiling event. “[The platform] unlocks valuable information for state and local governments overseeing testing. It encourages developers to exercise better, safer practices, and it provides clarity on AV testing for communities all across the country.”

What’s Next for the AV TEST Initiative

NHTSA will continue to gather more information from states, local jurisdictions, and companies to share with the public. In addition, NHTSA has begun the process to expand this web pilot to include more companies, states, and local jurisdictions.

The interactive site is a direct way to view information provided by AV TEST Initiative participants and reported through Voluntary Safety Self-Assessments. Additionally, NHTSA hosts public meetings and panel discussions to further educate the public and our stakeholders as automation moves forward. As companies and states add new information to the tracking tool, the website is being updated.

Visitors can sign up to get email alerts when new information is released about the AV TEST Initiative.

Image retrieved from transportation.gov

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Deputy Administrator James Owens said public trust will be key to the adoption of automated driving systems. During his remarks, he said DOT has held 9 virtual events to discuss the initiative, attracting more than 3,000 industry representatives.

“We’ve been pleased by the tremendous interest we’ve received,” Owens said. “We’ve been blown away. As more stakeholders participate and as more data is collected, the web tool will become more and more robust.”

The speakers noted that automated vehicle technology can improve safety and offer mobility options for people who face transportation challenges, such as the elderly and the disabled.

Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), who serves on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and participated in the virtual event, said 94% of all traffic accidents are due to human error, such as impaired or distracted driving.

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Carolyn Fortuna

Carolyn Fortuna, PhD, is a writer, researcher, and educator with a lifelong dedication to ecojustice. Carolyn has won awards from the Anti-Defamation League, The International Literacy Association, and The Leavey Foundation. Carolyn is a small-time investor in Tesla and an owner of a 2022 Tesla Model Y as well as a 2017 Chevy Bolt. Please follow Carolyn on Twitter and Facebook.

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