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Help us keep up the pressure on NHTSA to include the safety of people biking and walking

Automated Vehicles hold amazing promise to make people safer on our nation’s roadways. To date, our nation’s chief road safety regulator – NHTSA – has not made any regulations to ensure that promise is realized. The League, our partners, and grassroots advocates like you have been keeping up the pressure to ensure AVs meet their potential by directly engaging with NHTSA and Congress. Now NHTSA is taking a first step.

Did you know? NHTSA notices when you take action with us!

In a recent report on NCAP, the agency noted that, of “more than 300 comments, more than 200 of which were from individuals supporting comments made by the League of American Bicyclists.” Check out Twitter to see how we’re keeping the pressure on »

Late in 2020, NHTSA asked for public comments on a Framework for Automated Driving System Safety. This is where your voice matters. Please join the League of American Bicyclists in telling NHTSA this Framework must prioritize the safety of people biking, walking, and using wheelchairs. Any Framework that does not prioritize the safety of people outside of cars or AVs is incomplete.

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I wish it was safe to assume that the safety of people biking, walking, or using a wheelchair would be part of any NHTSA Framework. NHTSA’s mission is to “reduce traffic accidents and deaths and injuries resulting from traffic accidents” and people biking or walking make up 20% of traffic fatalities. NHTSA cannot accomplish its mission without addressing the 1/5th and growing percentage of fatalities that are people outside of vehicles. 

Unfortunately, NHTSA has not yet shown that it sees the safety of people hit by vehicles as an essential part of vehicle safety, whether it’s everyday cars and trucks or AVs.

Time and time again, NHTSA has chosen to not pursue changes that might improve the safety of people biking and walking:

  • Smaller vehicles: Many experts point to SUVs, trucks, and larger vehicles being more dangerous for people biking and walking as an explanation for recent increases in pedestrian and bicyclist deaths. Despite research showing that “SUVs, pickup trucks and passenger vans were 2-3 times more likely than cars to kill a pedestrian in the event of a crash,” NHTSA has yet to change vehicle safety standards or New Car Assessment criteria to promote safer vehicle designs for pedestrians and bicyclists.
  • Driver assistance: While other countries have begun testing Advanced Driver Assistance Systems like Automated Emergency Braking for their ability to save lives and mitigate injuries of people biking and walking, NHTSA has not. A proposed change in testing from 2015 has not been acted upon and would have only dealt with pedestrian safety. The Government Accountability Office recently highlighted NHTSA’s inaction in the face of increasing bicyclist and pedestrian deaths.
  • NCAP updates: Despite originating the concept of a New Car Assessment Program over 40 years ago, NHTSA has NEVER included assessments of pedestrian and bicyclist safety as part of the program. The lack of safety testing and standards for people biking and walking is now making some US-produced vehicles unwelcome in countries that have testing and standards for the safety of people outside vehicles.

Read the League’s comments to NHTSA on the Framework for ADS here

Decades of behavior shows us that NHTSA does not assume that the safety of people biking and walking is part of vehicle safety. As NHTSA approaches its first Framework for what is likely to be the defining vehicle safety technology of the next century – Automated Driving – it should change its approach and include the safety of people outside of vehicles as an essential part of its safety framework.

An ADS Framework should:

  • Include a “Vision Test” to ensure that developers are creating automated vehicles that can detect and respond to pedestrians, bicyclists and wheelchair users – of all races and ethnicities.
  • Quickly implement safety testing of existing automated technologies, like automated emergency braking which is tested in other markets.
  • Provide the resources necessary to ensure that as automated driving systems continue to develop, the technology’s safety means safety for all people, including people outside of ADS-equipped vehicles.

Please join us in asking NHTSA to care about biking and walking safety in its first-ever Framework for Automated Driving System Safety.

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