By Joseph Chalfant

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) ordered automakers to report accidents involving vehicles with fully or partially automated driving technology.

The standing general order requires manufacturers or companies using automated vehicles to report incidents in which fully automated driving or driver-assist programs were activated immediately before a crash began. The agency believes that this will help the industry discover safety issues or defects with the technology.

“NHTSA’s core mission is safety. 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,” NHTSA Acting Administrator Dr. Steven Cliff 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.”

Companies will be required to submit an electronic form to the NHTSA within one day after learning of a crash if someone requires hospitalization, a death occurs, an airbag is deployed, a vehicle requires a tow, or a pedestrian or bicyclist is hit. An updated report is required within 10 days of the crash. Companies will also be required to submit reports monthly for crashes involving automated vehicles that result in injury or property damage.

The vehicles subject to the order fall under two classifications: level two advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and levels three, four, and five automated driving systems (ADS). A level two ADAS vehicle provides the user with adaptive cruise control or lane centering. In contrast, the level three, four, and five cars are “capable of performing the entire dynamic driving task on a sustained basis,” according to the order.

For vehicle safety advocates, the NHTSA’s shift in policy is a welcome move. Executive director of Center for Auto Safety Jason Levine celebrated the new rule in a conversation with the Associated Press.

“Collecting crash data, and hopefully data from crashes which were avoided, can help serve a variety of purposes from enforcing current laws, to ensuring the safety of consumers, as well as paving the way for reasonable regulations to encourage the deployment of safe advanced vehicle technology,” said Levine.

The NHTSA began investigations into ADS-involved crashes in June of 2016. Since then, the agency has investigated 31 crashes, 25 of which involved vehicles manufactured by the electric car giant Tesla. Of those 25 crashes, 10 led to fatalities, according to the Associated Press.