NHTSA’s New Tool to Track Self-Driving Vehicle Testing on Public Roads Is an Interesting Experiment

It relies on voluntary compliance—meaning companies don’t have to submit their data if they don’t want to.

byRob Stumpf|
Self-Driving Tech photo


Do you know if autonomous vehicle testing is taking place in your town? Unless you've actually seen cars with some weird equipment stuck to them, you probably don't have a clue. On Wednesday, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) launched a tool that will help answer this and other related questions, as well as provide useful information about the state of autonomous driving projects across the nation.

Earlier this year, the NHTSA partnered with several organizations to collect the data necessary to birth the Automated Vehicle Transparency and Engagement for Safe Testing (AV TEST) tool. While the goal of the program is to create a standard platform for all forms of government to collect and share data on automated vehicle projects, this web-based tool is also designed to increase transparency and strengthen the much needed public confidence in AVs.

Information visible in the tool includes where AV testing is taking place, the company performing the testing, the kinds of roads the vehicle is permitted to test on, as well as the type of vehicle being used in the testing (cars, heavy trucks, shuttles, delivery robots, and more). Companies can also opt to draw in lines or zones where the vehicles will be testing.

You can access the tool directly from the NHTSA's website.

Vehicle testing locations are plotted on an interactive U.S. map., via NHTSA

In addition to marking the testing locations on a U.S. map, the tool also contains useful links to state rules and regulations regarding on-road AV testing so visitors can have a better understanding of how it is performed. Another portion of the tool contains links to documents supplied by the companies participating in the test, including safety information, case studies, and first responders' guides.

However, it's important to remember that this program itself is voluntary, so the information reflected on the tool won't always 100 percent portray what is happening on your town's streets. While companies, cities, and states are encouraged to provide data in the standardized format, they are not required to do so under regulatory guidance, so the data displayed on the online tool may only show 10 AV units testing in your backyard, while there could be 20 of them, or even just three if the data hasn't been updated.

Nine companies including Uber, Waymo, GM/Cruise, Toyota, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Beep, Local Motors Industries, Navya, and Nuro) and 10 states including Arizona, California, Florida, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Texas, and Utah, have all agreed to provide data.

The NHTSA says that the tool is intended to be "updated frequently" as more companies are onboarded and additional data fields are added.

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