Statement on National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) AV TEST Initiative Announcement

  • January 11, 2021
150 150 Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety
CONTACT: Pete Daniels / / 301-442-2249 (C)


Statement of Cathy Chase, President of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates), On National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) AV TEST Initiative Announcement



Less than two weeks before the Biden-Harris Administration takes office, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) took one more opportunity today to tout a voluntary, and essentially useless, program that purports to provide meaningful information on autonomous vehicle (AV) testing, but in fact does nothing of the kind.

The Automated Vehicle Transparency and Engagement for Safe Testing Initiative (AV TEST) has been in effect for a little over six months.  During that time, only 23 of the reportedly 80 companies testing are participating in the AV TEST Initiative.

NHTSA’s support for and reliance on voluntary industry actions are imprudent and even reckless in its approach to ensure the safe development of this experimental technology.  The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has investigated six crashes involving vehicles with autonomous capabilities, uncovering serious problems, including inadequate countermeasures to ensure driver engagement, reliance on voluntary reporting, lack of standards, poor corporate safety culture, and a misguided oversight approach by NHTSA.

The good news is that the incoming Administration and Congress have an opportunity to turn the page on this insufficient and ill-advised approach by advancing minimum performance standards, which will protect all road users and bolster public confidence, thereby also protecting the billions of dollars AV developers have invested.  There is strong public support for commonsense federal rules on AVs, but to date, NHTSA has chosen to ignore this sentiment.

Last month, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates) and a coalition of 60 other organizations and stakeholders released the “Autonomous Vehicle Tenets: A ‘GPS’ to Guarantee Public Safety.”  The Tenets are divided into four categories: prioritizing the safety of all road users; guaranteeing accessibility for all; preserving consumer and worker rights; and, ensuring local control and sustainable transportation.  They embody the values that must form the core of any future legislation or regulations on AVs.

NHTSA’s mission is to save lives, prevent injuries and reduce economic costs due to road traffic crashes through education, research, safety standards and enforcement activity.  The safety agency must take an off ramp from allowing unfettered and unverified AV development and deployment to the peril of all road users.


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.