NHTSA launches autonomous car tracking tool to improve transparency

The U.S. Department of Transportation announced Wednesday that it has launched a new tool to improve the transparency of driverless vehicle testing programs. The new map-based tool is part of the Automated Vehicle Transparency and Engagement for Safe Testing (AV TEST) Initiative, which is being overseen by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

“This tool gives the public online access to data about the on-road testing of automated driving systems so the public can understand more about this new technology,” said Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao in the agency’s announcement.

While the tool does not actually track autonomous vehicles on the road in real-time — at least not in its current implementation — it does provide background information regarding current driverless vehicle operations and the organizations conducting said programs. The screenshot below, for example, shows information regarding the autonomy project Toyota is currently running out of its R&D center in Ann Arbor, Mich. 

“The more information the public has about the on-road testing of automated driving systems, the more they will understand the development of this promising technology.  Automated driving systems are not yet available for sale to the public, and the AV TEST Initiative will help improve public understanding of the technology’s potential and limitations as it continues to develop,” said NHTSA Deputy Administrator James Owens.                                                                  

“Given the speed with which this technology is evolving, a volunteer partnership with industry and the States has allowed us to get this information to the public quickly and efficiently.  By tapping into the power of the competitive marketplace, non-regulatory tools have proven to be effective in advancing vehicle safety, as evidenced by the success of the Five-Star Safety Ratings program,” he added.

The Department will open the tool up to local agencies and program operators to further flesh out the data within the tool, hopefully guaranteeing that it remains current as testing programs mature.

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