WASHINGTON -- The nation's top highway safety agency issued an order Tuesday requiring automakers and other operators of vehicles equipped with advanced driver-assistance systems or fully automated driving systems to report crashes.
As part of the order, NHTSA is requiring vehicle, equipment and software manufacturers of ADAS and automated vehicles to report crashes where the system was engaged "during or immediately before the crash."
"NHTSA's core mission is safety," Steven Cliff, NHTSA's acting administrator, said in a statement. "By mandating crash reporting, the agency will have access to critical data that will help quickly identify safety issues that could emerge in these automated systems."
By gathering data, Cliff said, it "will help instill public confidence that the federal government is closely overseeing the safety of automated vehicles."
In addition, companies will be required to report crashes involving a Level 2 ADAS-equipped vehicle or Level 3-5 AV that include a hospital-treated injury, fatality, vehicle tow-away, airbag deployment or vulnerable road users such as a pedestrian or bicyclist within one day of learning of the crash.
An updated report is due 10 days after learning of the crash. Companies also will be required to report all other crashes involving AVs that involve an injury or property damage. Reports must be updated monthly with new or additional information, the agency said.
The agency specified a Level 2 ADAS-equipped vehicle as having driver-assist features such as lane-centering assistance and adaptive cruise control, but drivers must stay alert and engaged in the driving task. Vehicles with Level 3-5 automated driving systems are not currently available to consumers but are being tested and deployed in a limited scope on public roads.
Any company that fails to comply with the order could face “serious enforcement consequences” as well as “substantial civil penalties,” Ann Carlson, NHTSA’s chief counsel, said during a virtual press conference Tuesday.
Carlson said the crash reporting requirements are specific to vehicle and equipment manufacturers and vehicle operators of these systems. The order does not apply to consumers or other companies such as auto dealerships, but does apply to prototype vehicles and systems.
“If a company has no reportable crashes, it will still be required to file a monthly report stating so,” she said.
NHTSA's order comes after reports of Tesla vehicle crashes around the country — some of which have involved the electric vehicle maker's Autopilot driver-assist system.
NHTSA has opened at least 30 investigations into Tesla crashes since 2016.
The Alliance for Automotive Innovation -- a group that represents most major automakers in the U.S as well as some suppliers and tech companies that are working on automated driving technology -- pointed to the “unequivocal public statement” issued by its members in April on effective ways to determine appropriate driver engagement while educating the public on the benefits and limitations of Level 2 systems.
Tesla is not a member of the alliance.
“As we evaluate NHTSA’s new reporting obligations, it’s critical that consumers know and understand the benefits -- and limitations -- of these features to build and improve confidence in proven vehicle safety technologies,” John Bozzella, CEO of the alliance, said in a statement Tuesday.
“Misuse and abuse of Level 2 ADAS systems is extremely dangerous and threatens consumer acceptance and confidence in vehicles equipped with potentially life-saving ADAS technologies.”
NHTSA's Tuesday order was overdue, said Jason Levine, executive director for the Center for Auto Safety, said Tuesday's order was overdue.
"The agency has apparently finally heard the Center for Auto Safety’s long-standing call for the federal government to engage in oversight of the unregulated technology currently being tested on America's roads with neither a warning to the residents, nor any data being collected," he said.
Separately on Tuesday, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety said it had completed evaluations of the camera-based front crash prevention system that comes with certain Tesla Model 3 cars.
The IIHS said it extended a "2021 Top Safety Pick+" rating to all Model 3 cars after it gave the camera-based system a superior rating for vehicle-to-vehicle front crash prevention and an advanced rating for pedestrian front crash prevention. The IIHS has not completed its tests on the 2021 Tesla Model Y vehicle.
The Model 3 also regained its status as a Consumer Reports Top Pick after the IIHS tests.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk reacted in a tweet Tuesday. "Top Safety Pick+ from IIHS! That’s the highest overall rating, but we think we can get max score for all subcategories/individual tests too," Musk wrote. "Retesting in a month or so with improved software. The improved software will then be uploaded to all cars with FSD computers."
FSD is a reference to Tesla's "Full Self Driving" system which it has been allowing certain owners to test.
The vehicle lost the Consumer Reports designation in May after NHTSA said it would no longer be labeled as having some advanced safety features following Tesla's decision to remove radar sensors from its safety systems.
Reuters contributed to this report.