Companies will be required to report crashes where the “system was engaged during or immediately before the crash,” NHTSA said in a news release.
“Access to [automated driving system] data may show whether there are common patterns in driverless vehicle crashes or systematic problems in operation,” the agency said.
Waymo declined to comment. Tesla did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
While many autonomous vehicles are deployed in states that have regulations on the books, driver assistance systems such as Autopilot have often fallen into a regulatory gray area that allowed incidents to escape further examination. Under the new rules, a company must quickly report crashes involving a death or injury treated at the hospital, a vehicle towed away, an air bag deployment or the involvement of a pedestrian or cyclist.
Companies must also submit monthly reports of all crashes with injuries or property damage that involve automated systems, NHTSA said.
The systems have come under scrutiny as companies have increasingly put them in the hands of drivers and deployed them on public roads. Uber halted its self-driving vehicle program after one of its SUVs struck and killed a 49-year-old woman pushing a bike across a road in 2018.
And Tesla has come under scrutiny for crashes involving Autopilot, its driver-assistance system that includes features allowing cars to navigate from highway on-ramp to off-ramp, along with detecting stop signs and traffic lights, and automatically parking and summoning the vehicles. In one case, a Tesla operating in Autopilot mode plowed into the side of a tractor-trailer, killing the Tesla’s driver. The National Transportation Safety Board said the case involved overreliance on the driver-assistance features.
The NHTSA says it has examined more than two dozen incidents involving Autopilot.
“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,” Steven Cliff, NHTSA’s acting administrator, said in a statement. “In fact, gathering data will help instill public confidence that the federal government is closely overseeing the safety of automated vehicles.”
According to NHTSA, failure to comply with the mandate could result in fines of up to $22,992 per day and a maximum penalty totaling more than $100 million. In such cases, the matter could also be referred to the Justice Department to compel a response, NHTSA said.