US investigates self-driving vehicle company crash report

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FILE – In this April 7, 2021 file photo, a Waymo van moves along a city street as an empty driver’s seat and moving steering wheel lead passengers on an autonomous vehicle ride through Chandler, Ariz. A small maker of autonomous vehicle systems could be in hot water with U.S. traffic safety regulators over how quickly they reported a test vehicle crash last fall. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says in documents released Monday, March 28, 2022, that it is investigating Pony.ai’s report of an October 28 accident in Fremont, Calif. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

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A small maker of autonomous vehicle systems could be in hot water with U.S. traffic safety regulators over the time it took to report the crash of one of its test vehicles last fall.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in documents released Monday that it is investigating Pony.ai’s report of an Oct. 28 crash in Fremont, Calif., about two weeks after it happened.

A software error caused one of the company’s self-driving test vehicles to crash into a median traffic sign. Recall documents filed by the company indicate that there were no injuries or other property damage.

The agency says it has opened an investigation to see if Pony.ai has complied with reporting requirements under a blanket order issued last June to all manufacturers testing self-driving vehicles, or those with automated systems. driving assistance requiring human supervision.

The order requires the reporting of collisions involving injury, the deployment of airbags or the towing of a vehicle within a day of receiving notification of the accident. Manufacturers must report minor accidents involving autonomous vehicles on the 15th day of the month following the accident.

NHTSA investigative documents say Pony.ai reported the October crash on November 12 and filed further reports on November 17 and 29, and another in December. It is unclear whether the airbags inflated or the test vehicle was towed.

Pony.ai, which is based in Fremont, said in a prepared statement that it made a good faith effort to comply with NHTSA requirements and cooperated with the agency. The company said it fixed the software the day after the crash and it only affected three of the 200 vehicles in its fleet.

NHTSA said in documents that an investigation was initiated to determine whether the company complied with the order “with respect to both the timeliness and accuracy of its reporting of the 28 October 2021”.

The agency uses the order to collect data on autonomous and partially automated vehicles as part of developing regulations.

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