The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials recently provided feedback to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration regarding the incorporation of additional advanced driver assistance or ADAS technologies into the agency’s New Car Assessment Program or NCAP.
[Above photo by AASHTO]
AASHTO noted in its May 21 letter to NHTSA that, historically, it has not commented on vehicle testing protocols or design elements as “AASHTO affirms and seeks to preserve the traditional division of responsibilities among federal, state, and local authorities.”
Under that “traditional” framework, NHTSA regulates the design and safety of vehicles, while state departments of transportation install and maintain transportation infrastructure.
However, as connected and automated vehicle or CAV technologies continue to advance, AASHTO believes the safe operation of vehicles will increasingly depend on the reliable interface between vehicle design and road infrastructure. To that end, AASHTO said its comments to NHTSA focus on ADAS interaction with state-maintained infrastructure and supports the agency’s proposed changes to the NCAP.
AASHTO also expressed “high hopes” to NHTSA in its letter regarding the “life-saving potential” of ADAS, especially as preliminary data released by NHTSA indicates that crash fatalities increased by as much as 18 percent between 2020 and 2021.
“Thorough testing and rating are essential to realize the full safety benefits of ADAS technologies,” AASHTO noted in its letter. “To ensure safe performance of ADAS technologies, AASHTO suggests NCAP test vehicles in circumstances that reflect real-world infrastructure conditions, such as on roads with faded lane markings – keeping in mind that the condition of lane markings varies depending on weather patterns plus ongoing wear and tear on the roads.”
While ADAS technologies can improve safety by alerting drivers to danger and preventing crashes, AASHTO warned in its letter that “overreliance” on ADAS, which is intended only to supplement the awareness and control of a human driver, could lead to more crashes.
“To maximize the potential safety benefits of ADAS, it is vital to ensure that safeguards are in place to encourage driver attention,” AASHTO said.
The organization also welcomed the development of an ADAS rating system by NHTSA. “In [our] CAV Policy Principles, AASHTO recommends developing performance measures and reporting metrics for automated vehicle technology to understand system performance. Rating systems can also facilitate consumer education by conveying safety information in simple, efficient format,” the group noted.