If your car crashes on autopilot, California Highway Patrol wants to know



California drivers who want to try and blame their cars for bad driving now have the proper paperwork.

The California Highway Patrol (CHP), the law enforcement agency on all California highways and roads, has rolled out a revised version of its traffic crash report. As of this week, the form was updated to include the automation level for any vehicle involved in a traffic incident. 

A CHP spokesperson said the agency used the SAE International levels of automation for the new collision form used throughout the state. That means responding officers can select levels 0 to 5 for automation. Level 0 is for a car that’s completely human driven, while a Tesla with its advanced driver assistance system Autopilot turned on with a driver still behind the wheel is Level 2. The highest level on the road in California is Level 4, for cars from Waymo, Pony.AI, Zoox and five other companies approved to test autonomous vehicles without a driver in the front seat. 

A previous version of the form, known as CHP 555, requested details about vehicle type, make, model, year, and color after a crash. A “special information” section included “cellphone handheld in use” — or “handsfree” — but had nowhere to mark if the car was using Tesla’s Autopilot or General Motors’ Super Cruise systems when the incident occurred.

A list of “inattention codes” from A to K included reading, eating, radio/CD, and a generic “other.” That would likely apply to some Autopilot crashes where the driver ignored Tesla’s warning to use the system with eyes on the road and hands on the wheel. 

But now officers can note that the inattention stemmed from an autonomous system.

The Self-Driving Coalition, a group of autonomous driving industry leaders including Waymo, Cruise, Aurora, and others, looked into other states adding self-driving terminology on traffic and police department paperwork, but didn’t find any agencies beyond California making these types of changes currently.

The group did spotlight Arizona for clearly laying out new rules for the many autonomous vehicle companies (like Waymo and Nuro) operating in the sunny, suburban state. Arizona’s governor last month signed into law a self-driving bill, HB 2813, that requires a certification process for autonomous vehicle companies before they start operating in the state, treats ride-hailing services without a human driver (like Waymo) the same as existing services, such as Uber or Lyft, and implements a plan for law enforcement to know how to interact with an autonomous vehicle at a crash or other incident.

As cars get “smarter” the paperwork has to keep up. 


autonomous vehicles, Tech, Transportation

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