Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety release statement concerning NHTSA investigation of Tesla crashes

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The Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates) have released a statement on behalf of the organization’s president, Cathy Chase, addressing the Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Investigation of crashes involving Tesla vehicles. The statement can be found below.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has taken the necessary step of announcing a formal investigation of Tesla vehicles involved in crashes with first responder vehicles. In all cases, ‘autopilot’ or ‘traffic aware cruise control’ was engaged just prior to the crash.

In addition to this investigation, minimum performance standards to prevent vehicles with advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) from colliding with roadside emergency scenes are needed. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has consistently recommended vehicles be equipped with collision avoidance systems, including on the 2021 – 2022 Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements.

The INVEST in America Act (H.R. 3684), which was passed by the US House of Representatives with bipartisan support on July 1, 2021, includes requirements for the US Department of Transportation (USDOT) to issue safety standards for ADAS including automatic emergency braking (AEB), lane departure warning (LDW), and blind spot warning (BSW).  It also requires the safety technologies to be included as standard equipment in new cars by four years after enactment.

Advocates thanks Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-IL) for sponsoring the Protecting Roadside First Responders Act (S. 1386/H.R. 2867) and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) for sponsoring the 21st Century Smart Cars Act (H.R. 3628), bills that also address these vital safety technology upgrades.

Additionally, the INVEST in America Act would move the ball forward on standards and requirements for driver monitoring technology, which is critical to prevent drivers from over-reliance on automated driving features such as those found in Tesla vehicles.

Advocates commends lawmakers who have sponsored stand-alone bills to achieve this safety priority: Sens. Ed Markey (D-MA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), sponsors of the Stay Aware for Everyone Act (S. 1406); Sens. Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) and Rick Scott (R-FL) and Reps. Debbie Dingell (D-MI), Kathleen Rice (D-NY) and David McKinley, sponsors of the RIDE Act and HALT Drunk Driving Act (S. 1331/H.R. 2138).

Advocates, joined by consumer, public health, safety, labor, bicyclist and insurance organizations and traffic crash victim advocates, lauded the House’s passage of these comprehensive advances. Unfortunately, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, passed by the US Senate on August 10, includes provisions that would delay progress on these common-sense safety measures.

The recent action taken by NHTSA is a step in the right direction. Another important step was the June 29, 2021 standing order to require auto manufacturers and operators of vehicles equipped with ADAS that are rated as Level 2 per the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) and vehicles with more sophisticated automated driving system capability (SAE Levels 3 – 5), to report crashes. As the legislative process for the infrastructure package and reconciliation continues, Advocates urges the Biden Administration and Congress to move forward with the safety advances in the INVEST in America Act. Without essential action to curb current trends, over the five-year span of the legislation, nearly 200,000 people will be killed and 14 million more injured in motor vehicle crashes. Proven solutions can prevent these tragedies.

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Lauren is acting associate editor for Traffic Technology International and freelance journalist. Over the past 15 years, she has worked on a wide variety of B2B publications and websites, including a stint as deputy editor of Traffic Technology International from 2014-2016. She has a degree in English from the University of Exeter. Lauren is mum two busy little girls. She is always in demand!