NHTSA launches Voluntary Website Platform for AV Testing—Why do we Need This?

By Shelia Dunn, NMA Communications Director

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chou made a big splash this week announcing a voluntary reporting mechanism for driverless car companies and states. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration calls the new program, Automated Vehicle Transparency and Engagement for Safe Testing, or AV TEST. It will be online, and anyone with a computer will be able to access the information.

Eight states and nine self-driving car developers announced they already plan to participate.

The states include California, Florida, Maryland, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Utah. Notably absent is the state of Arizona, a significant test center for Uber before a fatal 2018 accident and Waymo. The nine companies include Beep, Cruise (GM), Fiat Chrysler, Local Motors, Navya, Nuro, Toyota, and Waymo.

Congress has mostly stalled any meaningful legislation regulating driverless cars. States have had to make their own up, and it is indeed a patchwork. For example, California requires companies to publically disclose all crashes involving automated vehicles, while other states do not.

Unclear at this time, whether the companies will be required to share test information with each other and the public. They will be, though, sharing routes, map data, and dates on the website.

The hope for AV TEST is to create some excitement for AVs and provide transparency on safety and testing.

Does the public even care that much? Poll after poll has shown that the majority of those surveyed do not trust AVs. How will a website make any difference?

Media skepticism has also arrived on the issue:

Car and Driver claim that the Fed’s effort is off to a slow start and the Verge.com wonders if the public will ever get any meaningful data from this effort that is using taxpayer money.

Should the DOT be spending money on trying to force folks to like driverless cars when the DOT doesn’t have enough money for highways? Seems priorities are out-of-whack.

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