Statement on Revisions to Rules for Protecting Occupants in Vehicles with Automated Driving Systems (ADS)

  • March 10, 2022
150 150 Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety
CONTACT: Pete Daniels / / 301-442-2249 (C)

Statement of Cathy Chase, President, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates), on Revisions to Rules for Protecting Occupants in Vehicles with Automated Driving Systems (ADS)


Today the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released a final rule detailing changes to occupant protection safety standards for vehicles equipped with automated driving systems (ADS).  Streamlining compliance with federal motor vehicle safety standards (FMVSS) for auto manufacturers should not sacrifice the safety of everyone in and around the cars they’re selling.  At a bare minimum, vehicles with ADS must be required to provide the same levels of occupant protection required in passenger vehicles.

Additionally, today’s announcement does not address the urgent need for minimum performance standards for ADS.  Instead of establishing safety standards to ensure ADS-driven vehicles will operate safely on our roads and will not increase risks to road users, NHTSA for the last six years has released four iterations of voluntary, non-binding guidance and established the Automated Vehicle Transparency and Engagement for Safe Testing Initiative (AV TEST) which provides limited, industry self-selected information about ADS testing and operations on our roads.  This approach has produced untrustworthy, underwhelming and unreliable information about the safety and performance of vehicles with ADS.  As the Agency continues to develop policy on vehicles with ADS, we urge them to use the Autonomous Vehicle Tenets, which are supported by Advocates and a diverse group of more than 60 organizations, as a foundation.

With these vehicles likely decades away at a minimum, we urge NHTSA to be laser-focused on issuing safety standards requiring proven safety technologies which are building blocks for ADS-driven vehicles, such as automatic emergency braking (AEB), blind spot detection (BSD) and lane departure warning (LDW), known as advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS).  The full potential of ADAS to save lives cannot be realized as long as automakers are permitted to equip these systems in some high-end models and upcharge for them in luxury packages.  Every family should have the safest braking systems.

With the recent spike of deadly motor vehicle crashes which killed nearly 40,000 people in 2020, nothing less than swift action on verified vehicle safety upgrades by the U.S. Department of Transportation is acceptable.


Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety is an alliance of consumer, medical, public health, law enforcement and safety groups and insurance companies and agents working together to make America’s roads safer.  Advocates’ mission is the adoption of federal and state laws, policies and programs that prevent motor vehicle crashes, save lives, reduce injuries, and contain costs.