United States: NHTSA And Motor Vehicle Safety - January 23, 2019

Introduction

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the primary regulator of motor vehicles and motor vehicle equipment, continues to be active in investigating potential safety-related defects and noncompliance with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS). As the deployment of advanced vehicle technologies continues to accelerate, NHTSA has been increasing its enforcement capacity and looking for ways to encourage further innovation in automated technologies. NHTSA's approach to autonomous vehicles has been and will likely continue to be a wait-and-see approach, while leveraging its research capacities and conducting industry outreach to further understand the building blocks of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) to enable the agency to develop future regulations that do not stifle innovation.

Agency Investigations

NHTSA has been working to double the headcount in its Office of Defects Investigation (ODI). Over the past year, the agency has added a number of new investigators and reorganized its enforcement office. In concert with the staff additions and structural changes, NHTSA has continued developing a more data-driven approach to determining whether to open an investigation.

Looking to leverage what NHTSA learns during periodic meetings with manufacturers under Consent Orders, the agency has sought similar, voluntary meetings with major OEMs and large Tier One suppliers. Manufacturers are not required to agree to these meetings and NHTSA's expectations for these meetings are not clear, but regular contact with ODI and the Office of Vehicle Safety Compliance (OVSC) can be beneficial in understanding NHTSA's focus and can aid in building a constructive relationship with the agency. When engaging in these informal meetings, manufacturers should look to understand what the agency's expectations are, particularly in terms of what information NHTSA expects to be shared. Suppliers should also be sensitive to their customers' views with respect to these meetings and how their information might be shared with NHTSA.

NHTSA also continues to seek ways to leverage the mountains of data that it regularly collects – vehicle owner questionnaires (VOQs or customer complaints sent directly to NHTSA), early warning reports, accident reports, and more – using sophisticated data-mining techniques. For more than a year, NHTSA has been working with manufacturers to develop risk matrices to guide its decision-making around the opening of formal investigations. The agency's intention has been to develop a matrix for specific risk categories, such as engine compartment fires, and build a table that weighs the likely safety consequences of a particular condition (severity) against the number of occurrences (frequency). Comparing the severity with the rate, the matrix would use data currently collected by or available to NHTSA to determine when a formal investigation should be opened for a particular issue. NHTSA has worked with a number of manufacturers to develop the matrices and has stated its intention to make them public to demonstrate a more objective and transparent process. NHTSA has yet to officially release specific matrices and it appears they are still under development.

NHTSA's investigations staff was active throughout 2018, opening more than 30 formal investigations, including six engineering analyses and 14 preliminary evaluations. As new investigators become fully integrated into NHTSA and additional support is added, manufacturers should anticipate that NHTSA will continue to actively open formal investigations, as well as make more informal contact with manufacturers to discuss potential safety issues prior to opening a formal investigation. Manufacturers should actively monitor NHTSA's VOQ data for complaints related to their products to prepare themselves for potential questions from NHTSA. Manufacturers should also have processes in place to enable them to promptly and effectively respond to NHTSA inquiries.

NHTSA also has made changes in its Recall Management Division (RMD), which oversees the administration of recalls filed by manufacturers. In 2018, the Department of Transportation's Office of the Inspector General released a report that was critical of certain aspects of NHTSA's oversight of passenger vehicle recalls. The report found that NHTSA's processes lacked documentation and management controls and did not "ensure that remedies are reported completely and in a timely manner." Relevant to manufacturers, the criticisms also included NHTSA's failure to follow up on required documents that were not submitted during the recall, lack of processes for monitoring equipment recalls, failure to monitor the scope of recalls, and failure to verify recall completion rates. Since these criticisms, NHTSA has increased its focus on ensuring that manufacturers timely submit all the required documents and information. For example, NHTSA has begun looking more closely at defect information reports to ensure that the description of the recall scope provides a clearer explanation regarding how the scope was chosen.

RMD's focus on timely and complete documentation will continue through 2019 and the foreseeable future. NHTSA also recently lost its chief of RMD and will likely look to a replacement who will continue RMD's push for increased oversight of recalls. Manufacturers should audit their recall submissions to ensure they are up to date and complete. They should also take the following actions to reduce their compliance risk:

  • Implement (or update) safety compliance policies that provide internal guidance to company personnel for identifying and investigating potential safety defects and FMVSS noncompliances;
  • Implement (or update) procedures for complying with all associated NHTSA reporting requirements (e.g., defect reporting, early warning reporting, and reporting certain non-safety bulletins and customer communications);
  • Revisit early warning reporting procedures to ensure they capture all relevant information (for suppliers, this means fatality claims and notices);
  • Ensure recall documents are complete and timely filed; and
  • Conduct thorough training of key personnel across the organization – domestically and globally – on these procedures and on the importance of bringing potential safety concerns to the attention of appropriate personnel or safety committees.

Autonomous Vehicles

The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) has been actively reviewing regulations throughout the country's ground-transportation network (motor vehicles, rail, commercial vehicles, transit companies, and internal infrastructure) to promote regulatory consistency; to adopt flexible, technology-neutral policies that promote competition and innovation; to modernize regulations and remove regulatory barriers to advanced and autonomous technologies in transportation; and to provide guidance, best practices, and pilot programs to promote automation throughout the transportation network. These principles were explained in detail in the USDOT's Automated Vehicles 3.0: Preparing for the Future of Transportation ("AV 3.0") released in September 2018. AV 3.0 builds on and clarifies prior policy statements released in September 2016 (AV 1.0) and September 2017 (AV 2.0). Due to the rapid changes in autonomous vehicle technologies, the industry should anticipate further refinements to the policy in 2019.

AV 3.0 contains principles that will guide future policies. A key principle is the focus on removing regulatory barriers that may constrain the development of automation and issuing voluntary guidelines rather than regulations that may stifle innovation. The policy also states that NHTSA's current safety standards do not prevent the development, testing, and sale of ADAS in vehicles that comply with current FMVSS, including maintaining traditional controls for human-operated vehicles. Current regulations, however, may pose regulatory barriers for alternative designs, such as non-traditional seating arrangements or vehicles with steering wheels and pedals. In light of these statements, AV 3.0 states that USDOT, including NHTSA, will interpret and adapt regulatory definitions of "driver" and "operator" to recognize automated systems. Further, NHTSA plans to continue using the self-certification approach to safety standards (as opposed to the type-approval approach used in Europe) and actively seek to remove regulatory barriers.

NHTSA has taken steps to meet these goals. It has published requests for public comments and held public meetings regarding potential barriers to autonomous functions in vehicles. It has also requested comments on a potential pilot program to collect data on the operation of autonomous vehicles and comments related to potential standards involving advanced technologies, such as adaptive driving beam systems and camera-based rear-visibility systems. NHTSA has also been actively researching methods for evaluating and testing ADAS. These have included the following NHTSA- and USDOT-sponsored studies:

  • "Human Factors Design Guidance for Level 2 and Level 3 Automated Driving Concepts," DOT HS 812 555 (Aug. 2018);
  • "Functional Safety Assessment of an Automated Lane Centering System," DOT HS 812 573 (Aug. 2018);
  • "A Framework for Automated Driving System Testable Cases and Scenarios – Final Report," DOT HS 812 623 (Sep. 2018); and
  • "Low-Speed Automated Shuttles: State of the Practice," DOT-VNTSC-OSTR-18-03 (Sep. 2018).

This growing body of research will guide NHTSA's future evaluation of ADAS and Level 3 through Level 5 autonomous vehicles. Manufacturers working in the ADAS space should study this research, take advantage of the opportunity to publicly comment on NHTSA's proposals, and reach out to NHTSA to ensure Agency personnel remain apprised of the latest technologies. As these technologies grow more specialized and the interaction among various vehicle components becomes more complex, manufacturers should work with the Agency to ensure that NHTSA understands their technology well enough to regulate and investigate potential failures appropriately.

--Autonomous Vehicle Legislation

On September 6, 2017, the House of Representatives passed the Safely Ensuring Lives Future Deployment and Research In Vehicle Evolution ("SELF DRIVE") Act, H.R. 3388. The SELF DRIVE Act was the first major federal effort to regulate autonomous vehicles beyond the previously adopted "voluntary" guidelines. The SELF DRIVE Act aims to improve NHTSA's "ability to adapt federal safety standards to this emerging technology, and clarify federal and state roles with respect to self-driving cars."

A few weeks after the House passed its bill, a similar bill, the American Vision for Safer Transportation through Advancement of Revolutionary Technologies ("AV START") Act, S. 1885, moved out of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation by unanimous vote. The Senate bill would have excluded commercial trucks from key provisions and contained several differences with the House version. The AV START Act has languished in the Senate for over a year and, at the time of this writing, negotiations within the Senate are underway to address the concerns of certain senators, but the bill does not appear poised to pass. With a new Congress in January 2019, these bills will need to be re-introduced and will potentially be changed to reflect the make up of the new Congress and changes to vehicle technology since the bills were originally introduced.

-- NHTSA's V2V Communications NPRM

The future of NHTSA's proposed rule on vehicle-to-vehicle communication in all light-duty vehicles remains in flux. Under the proposed rule, the Agency would issue a new FMVSS No. 150 that would require new light vehicles to be capable of sending and receiving "Basic Safety Messages" related to the vehicle's speed, heading, brake status, and other information to and from other vehicles over dedicated short-range radio communication (DSRC) devices.

In addition to vehicle positional and behavioral data, V2V and so-called vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communications could potentially transmit environmental data, such as road conditions, to surrounding vehicles.

There continues to be a debate on whether the use of DSRC or cellular technology will be the future of V2X communications (the combination of V2V, V2I, and any other devices that will communicate). Significant investment in V2X technologies has already been undertaken and will likely continue, regardless of whether NHTSA's rule becomes final. Two major OEMs have announced that they have or will roll out vehicles using DSRC. The debate, however, continues and will likely become more interesting when the forthcoming 5G wireless system begins to come online. As the technology develops and proves its viability, expect NHTSA and USDOT, with its authority over transportation infrastructure, to continue to play a role in this area.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
 
In association with
Related Topics
 
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
 
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions