Image by Tom Williams // CQ-Roll Call, Inc.

Steven Cliff, the new head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is concerned about the lack of accurate knowledge about automatic and self-driving systems installed in electric vehicles. Since these EV software systems are relatively new, there has only been minimal testing and data research done to assess the safety of the programs.

Currently, the NHTSA has reports of over 400 vehicle crashes, many of which resulted in injuries and death, because of automated and self-driving vehicles. When Cliff began his career with NHTSA in 2021, he was surprised to find that there was no data collected on automated crashes.

As a passion of his, Cliff challenged this lack of data and now official reports are being analyzed. Cliff, with the rest of NHTSA, hopes to write and implement regulations for automated vehicles that ensure safety since currently there are no federal regulations for these types of vehicles and programs.

First, before coming up with regulations, the new head is working with the agency and EV companies to test-drive vehicles and write safety standards for emergency braking. The automated emergency braking systems use sensors to stop the car automatically when it senses pedestrians and other objects on the road.

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