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NHTSA Reveals AV Tracking Tool

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Sept. 21, 2020—In June, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced the launch of its Automated Vehicle Transparency and Engagement for Safe Testing Initiative. The latest update for this initiative came just a few weeks ago when Elaine Chao, the U.S. Transportation Secretary, announced the launch of a public online tool intended to improve safety and testing transparency of automated driving systems. 

“This new platform will make on-road testing information accessible to government, industry, and the public alike in an attempt to improve safety and help everyone understand how autonomous vehicles are being tested in their communities,” Chao said, during the live event. 

The Tool

The online mapping tool has the potential to show testing locations at the local, State, and national levels in addition to testing activity data which could include dates, frequency, vehicle counts, routes and more. 

When you go to the tool’s website there is a map with various red dots indicating where autonomous vehicles are in the country. Click on any of the red dots and a pop up box appears detailing the operation status of the AV, the type of vehicle, its top operational speed, the road type it is operating on, how it is being monitored, which company designed its autonomous technology, and more. 

ADAPT recently did a story on Colorado’s Department of Transportation’s Mobility Task Force and their approval of an autonomous food bank during the beginning of the pandemic. The tool is constantly being updated and as a result, there is even a red dot and an informational card detailing that exact AV and the role it fulfilled. 

The Support

As of now, the online tracking tool provides data from on-road testing of automated driving systems across 17 American cities. Denver, Colo., Jacksonville, Fla., Salt Lake City, Utah, Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio are among the first cities included in the data set. 

James Owens, deputy administration for NHTSA, says 10 companies and nine states have already signed on as participants for the initiative. 

Also in attendance at the virtual event was Fred Upton, a Republican U.S. Representative of Michigan, and Republican U.S. Sen. John Thune of South Dakota. 

The Goal

The overarching goal of the initiative is to provide the public with easily-accessible information regarding ADS-equipped vehicles as well as up-to-date legislative information as it is crafted. 

During his remarks, Sen. Thune outlined three items that he believes should be included in future legislation regarding autonomous vehicles. First, the legislation should preserve the traditional roles of federal and state regulators. Secondly, he said any legislation should build on NHTSA’s current efforts to address incompatible regulatory requirements that were not written with AVs in mind. His final request is that legislation enhances NHTSA’s ability to expand testing and grant exemptions where the existing requirements may inhibit safety innovations. 

On a humanitarian level, Deputy Owens said autonomous vehicles have the potential to drastically improve mobility for underserved populations across the country. Those who are mobility-impaired or of older generations could regain a sense of independence without sacrificing their safety with the evolution of autonomous technology.

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