Automated Vehicles for Safety | NHTSA (2024)

The Topic

Related Topic

Driver Assistance Technologies

Many vehicles on the road today have driver assistancetechnologies, which help to save lives and prevent injuries on our nation's roads. While some driver assistance technologies are designed to warn you if you’re at risk of an impending crash, others are designed to take action to avoid a crash.

The continuing evolution of automotive technology, includingdriver assistance technologies and automated driving systems,aim to deliver even greater safety benefits.

A Vision for Safety: Learn More

Download NHTSA’s voluntary guidance, technical documentation, and additional resources related to automated vehicles.

Guidance Resources

Automated Vehicles for Safety | NHTSA (1)

Safety/Convenience Features

Cruise Control
Seat Belts
Antilock Brakes

Automated Vehicles for Safety | NHTSA (2)

Automated Vehicles for Safety | NHTSA (3)

Automated Vehicles for Safety | NHTSA (4)

Advanced Safety Features

Electronic Stability Control
Blind Spot Detection
Forward Collision Warning
Lane Departure Warning

Automated Vehicles for Safety | NHTSA (5)

Advanced Driver Assistance Features

Rearview Video Systems
Automatic Emergency Braking
Pedestrian Automatic Emergency Braking
Rear Automatic Emergency Braking
Rear Cross Traffic Alert
Lane Centering Assist

Automated Vehicles for Safety | NHTSA (6)

Automated Vehicles for Safety | NHTSA (9)

Fully Automated Safety Features

Automated Vehicles for Safety | NHTSA (10)

The Topic



Cars and trucks that drive us — instead of us driving them — may offer transformative safety opportunities at their maturity. At this time, even the highest level of driving automation available to consumers requires the full engagement and undivided attention of drivers. There is considerable investment into safe testing, development and validation of automated driving systems. These automotive technology advancements also have the potential to improve equity, air pollution, accessibility and traffic congestion.

Level 0 Momentary Driver Assistance

System provides momentary driving assistance, like warnings and alerts, or emergency safety interventions while driver remains fully engaged and attentive.

You Drive, You Monitor

You, as the driver, are responsible for driving the vehicle. All vehicle features are assistive and do not operate the vehicle. You must steer, brake, and accelerate.

Example of vehicle technologies:

  • automatic emergency braking
  • forward collision warning
  • lane departure warning

Level 1 Driver Assistance

System provides continuous assistance with either acceleration/braking OR steering, while driver remains fully engaged and attentive

You Drive, You Monitor

You, as the driver, are responsible for driving the vehicle. When engaged, the system can perform either steering OR acceleration/braking.

Example of vehicle technologies:

  • adaptive cruise control
  • lane keeping assistance

Level 2 Additional Assistance

System provides continuous assistance with both acceleration/braking AND steering, while driver remains fully engaged and attentive.

You Drive, You Monitor

You, as the driver, are responsible for driving the vehicle. When engaged, the system can perform steering AND acceleration/braking.

Example of vehicle technologies:

  • highway pilot

Level 3 Conditional Automation

System actively performs driving tasks while driver remains available to take over.

System Drives, You Must Be Available To Take Over Upon Request

When engaged, the system handles all aspects of the driving task while you, as the driver, are available to take over driving if requested. If the system can no longer operate and prompts the driver, the driver must be available to resume all aspects of the driving task.


Level 4 High Automation

System is fully responsible for driving tasks within limited service areas while occupants act only as passengers and do not need to be engaged.

When Engaged, System Drives, You Ride

When engaged, the system handles all driving tasks while you, now the passenger, are not needed to maneuver the vehicle. The system can only operate the vehicle in limited service areas, not universally. A human driver is not needed to operate the vehicle.


Level 5 Full Automation

System is fully responsible for driving tasks while occupants act only as passengers and do not need to be engaged.

When Engaged, System Drives, You Ride

When engaged, the system handles all driving tasks while you, now the passenger, are not needed to maneuver the vehicle. The system can operate the vehicle universally – under all conditions and on all roadways. A human driver is not needed to operate the vehicle.


Automated Vehicles for Safety | NHTSA (11)

The Topic


Vehicle safety promises to be one of automation's biggest benefits. Higher levels of automation, referred to as automated driving systems, remove the human driver from the chain of events that can lead to a crash. While these systems are not available to consumers today, the advantages of this developing technology could be far-reaching.

What is available to consumers today: active safety systems. These are types of advanced driver assistance systems, which provide lower levels of automation that can assist a driver by anticipating imminent dangers and working to avoid them.

Collectively, these technologies will help protect drivers and passengers, as well as bicyclists and pedestrians.


While full societal benefits of automated driving systems are difficult to project, their transformative potential is recognized. Automated driving systems, at their maturity, could increase mobility for seniors and people with disabilities and expand transportation options for underrepresented communities. NHTSA encourages equity to be considered and addressed throughout the ADS infrastructure and vehicle design processes.

Economic and Societal Benefits

Automated technologies could deliver additional economic and societal benefits. A NHTSA study showed that motor vehicle crashes cost billions each year. Eliminating the majority of vehicle crashes through technology could reduce this cost.


The automotive industry is moving toward more automation and electrification, which both hold promise for further improvements in safety and better environmental practices. Vehicle automation will potentially change the need for individualized parking spaces and lots, with increased use of automated ride share and shuttle fleets, which could dramatically transform land use. Also, vehicle electrification opens up possibilities to improve efficiency with less personal driving, resulting in further reductions of air pollutants from the transport sector.

Efficiency and Convenience

Americans spent an estimated 6.9 billion hours in traffic delays in 2014, cutting into time at work or with family, increasing fuel costs and vehicle emissions. Automated driving systems have the potential to improve efficiency and convenience.

The Topic

When will automated driving systems or "self-driving" vehicles be available?

Vehicles with an automated driving system, which some refer to as "self-driving" cars, are a future technology – not a technology you’re able to purchase and use today.

What are the safety benefits of automated vehicles?

Types of automated technologies, such as advanced driver assistance system technologies already in use on the roads and future automated driving systems at their mature state, have the potential to reduce crashes, prevent injuries, and save lives. In some circ*mstances, automated technologies may be able to detect the threat of a crash and act faster than drivers. These technologies could greatly support drivers and reduce human errors and the resulting crashes, injuries, and economic tolls.

I’ve heard stories about "self-driving" vehicles that have crashed. Why are they on the road?

There is no vehicle currently available for sale that is fully automated or "self-driving." Every vehicle currently for sale in the United States requires the full attention of the driver at all times for safe operation. While an increasing number of vehicles now offer some automated features designed to assist the driver under specific conditions, these vehicles are not fully automated.

Currently, states permit a limited number of “self-driving” vehicles to conduct testing, research, and pilot programs on public streets and NHTSA monitors their safety through its Standing General Order.NHTSA and USDOT are committed to overseeing the safe testing, development and deployment of these systems – currently in limited, restricted and designated locations and conditions.

What automated features are currently available in vehicles?

Many vehicles today include features that assist drivers in specific circ*mstances, such as keeping us from drifting out of our lane or helping us stop in time to avoid a crash or reduce its severity. Read more about this onNHTSA's safety technologies topic.If you’re currently shopping for a new vehicle, reviewNHTSA's 5-Star Safety Ratingsto make informed decisions about the safety features included in the vehicle.

How will I know automated driving systems are safe?

Vehicles are tested by the companies that build them. Companies must comply with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and certify that their vehicle is free of safety risks. Many companies today are testing vehicles with higher levels of automation to ensure that they operate as intended, but many experts indicate that more work remains to be done by developers to ensure their safe operation before they are available for consumers to purchase.

Will automated vehicles be more vulnerable to hacking?

Cybersecurity is a critical issue that USDOT and automotive companies are working to address for the future safe deployment of these technologies. Advanced vehicle safety technologies depend on an array of electronics, sensors, and computing power. In advancing these features and exploring the potential of full automation, USDOT and NHTSA are focused on cybersecurity to ensure that companies appropriately safeguard these systems to be resilient and work as intended. You can read more about our approach by visitingNHTSA's vehicle cybersecurity topic.

If a vehicle is driving itself, who is liable if the vehicle crashes? How is the vehicle insured?

It is vital to emphasize that drivers will continue to share driving responsibilities for the foreseeable future and must remain engaged and attentive to the driving task and the road ahead with the consumer available technologies today. However, questions about liability and insurance are among many important questions, in addition to technical considerations that, policymakers are working to address before automated driving systems reach their maturity and are available to the public.

I’ve seen concept automated vehicles that don’t even have a steering wheel, accelerator or brake pedal. Will I be allowed to drive my own vehicle in the future if it is automated?

A vehicle that is fully automated will be capable of controlling all aspects of driving without human intervention, regardless of whether its design includes controls for an actual driver. Companies may take different design approaches to vehicles that do or do not include controls allowing for a traditional driver. As is the case now, consumers will decide what types of vehicle designs best suit their needs.

Will automated vehicles help the elderly and people with disabilities who cannot drive today?

Some older Americans and people with disabilities are able to drive today by adapting or modifying their vehicles to meet their specific needs. Vehicles with partial and full automation could offer new mobility options to many more people, helping them to live independently or to better connect them to jobs, education and training, and other opportunities.

Explain the different terms: automated driving system, automated vehicle and "self-driving" vehicle.

When discussing types of vehicles where a traditional driver would no longer be needed, NHTSA refers to them as automated driving systems. These types of vehicles have also been referred to as automated vehicles. NHTSA follows industry standards in not using the term "self-driving" to describe higher levels of automation, as this describes a vehicle's state of operation but not necessarily its capabilities and too often is falsely associated with how today's drivers need to interact with a vehicle.

NHTSA In Action

NHTSA demonstrates its dedication to saving lives on our nation’s roads and highways through its approach to the safe development, testing, and deployment of new and advanced vehicle technologies that have enormous potential for improving safety and mobility for all Americans.

NHTSA supports the Safe System Approach, a data-driven, holistic, and equitable method to roadway safety that fully integrates the needs of all users. As part of this approach, vehicle safety technologies offer unique opportunities to reduce traffic deaths, injuries, and harm.

In 2021, NHTSA issued a Standing General Order that requires manufacturers and operators of automated driving systems and SAE Level 2 advanced driver assistance systems equipped vehicles to report crashes to the agency.

In 2020, NHTSA launched Automated Vehicle Transparency and Engagement for Safe Testing. As part of the AV TEST initiative, states and companies can voluntarily submit information about testing of automated driving systems to NHTSA, and the public can view the information using NHTSA’s interactive tool.

In September 2016, NHTSA and the U.S. Department of Transportation issued the Federal Automated Vehicles Policy, which sets forth a proactive approach to providing safety assurance and facilitating innovation. Building on that policy and incorporating feedback received through public comments, stakeholder meetings, and Congressional hearings the agency issued Automated Driving Systems: A Vision for Safety.

15-Passenger Vans Adapted Vehicles Air Bags Automated Vehicles for Safety Car Seats and Booster Seats Seat Belts

Driver Assistance Technologies Electric and Hybrid Vehicles Odometer Fraud Tires Vehicle Theft Prevention Takata Recall Spotlight

Automated Vehicles for Safety | NHTSA (2024)


How safe are automated vehicles? ›

What are the safety benefits of automated vehicles? Types of automated technologies, such as advanced driver assistance system technologies already in use on the roads and future automated driving systems at their mature state, have the potential to reduce crashes, prevent injuries, and save lives.

Are automated vehicles safer than manually driven cars? ›

Self-driving vehicles use systems that find the fastest route to a destination, resulting in better fuel efficiency and reduced emissions and costs. According to recent studies, autonomous vehicles are safer than those driven manually.

What are the safety challenges for autonomous vehicles? ›

Risks of using autonomous vehicles
  • condition of the road infrastructure,
  • total dependence of vehicle occupants on AI systems,
  • cyber security risks associated with potential remote hacking of the car,
  • unforeseen failures of individual systems, which can lead to a number of serious accidents.
Mar 14, 2023

What is automated vehicles 4.0 ensuring American leadership in automated vehicle technologies? ›

The White House and the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) developed AV 4.0 to unify efforts in automated vehicles across 38 Federal departments, independent agencies, commissions, and Executive Offices of The President, providing high-level guidance to Federal agencies, innovators, and all stakeholders on the ...

What is the problem with automated vehicles? ›

Current Challenges in Autonomous Vehicle Development
  • Safety and Reliability Concerns. ...
  • Regulatory and Legal Issues. ...
  • Technological Changes and Ethical Challenges. ...
  • Scalability and Infrastructure Adaptation. ...
  • Public Perception and Consumer Acceptance. ...
  • Data Security and Privacy Concerns.
Jan 10, 2024

What is the accident rate for driverless cars? ›

In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that self-driving vehicles are more than twice as likely as traditional vehicles to become involved in auto accidents. According to 2015 NHTSA data: There are 9.1 crashes in driverless vehicles per million vehicle miles driven.

Are automatic cars safe? ›

An age old debate amongst many motorists is on which type of transmission is safer to drive - manual or automatic? Well, from a true safety perspective, neither is conclusively safer than the other. Especially with modern technology and engineering, both types are reliable and safe to drive.

How safe is self-drive? ›

In the 4 years of testing, from 2019 to 2022, that is nearly 14 million miles without a serious injury or fatality. NHTSA say that with human drivers, a fatality happens roughly once per 75 million miles of human driving. So autonomous vehicles still have a way to go to catch up, but it is looking promising.

Are driverless cars a solution for road safety? ›

Many experts say that self-driving cars can be trained to be safer than human drivers. With the sensors and cameras monitoring and guiding, these cars can not only sense their environment but also can anticipate what's coming up ahead, which humans are not capable of.

Why are self-driving cars a threat? ›

Hacked vehicles

Self-driving cars are controlled entirely by computers. Unfortunately, computer hardware and software can be vulnerable to exploits from malicious hackers. These cyber attackers could be able to break into the vehicle's systems and take control of it.

What are the possible attacks on autonomous vehicles? ›

Spoofing attacks: Adversaries can create false signals that mimic the real signals received by LiDAR sensors, causing the autonomous vehicle to misinterpret its surroundings.

How safe are self-driving cars and are they really the future? ›

The benefits of self-driving cars are numerous and far-reaching. One of the most significant benefits is increased safety. Self-driving vehicles have advanced sensors and cameras that can detect and respond to hazards more quickly and accurately than humans.

Why do we need automated vehicles? ›

Fewer traffic jams save fuel and reduce greenhouse gases from needless idling. Automated driving systems may reduce unnecessary braking and acceleration that waste fuel. Vehicles with fully automated driving systems may be able to travel more closely together, reducing air drag and thereby reducing fuel use.

How do automated vehicles work? ›

Autonomous cars create and maintain a map of their surroundings based on a variety of sensors situated in different parts of the vehicle. Radar sensors monitor the position of nearby vehicles. Video cameras detect traffic lights, read road signs, track other vehicles, and look for pedestrians.

What drives people to accept automated vehicles? ›

The analysis encompassed factors such as perceived ease of use, perceived usefulness, perceived data privacy, perceived trust, attitude, and behavioral intention; revealing their substantial influence on individuals' attitudes towards adopting automated vehicles. In a study conducted by Naderi et al.

Can automated cars be hacked? ›

Now, 82% of vehicle hacks occur remotely. Some of the vulnerabilities that researchers have investigated include: Hackers causing an autonomous vehicle accident by accessing an AV's network to disable the vehicle. Hackers taking control of an autonomous vehicle to purposely steer it into danger.

Is Autopilot actually safe? ›

Automated driving systems are lacking in the safety department, according to a new report. Tesla's Full Self Driving system earned the worst marks, but most of the 14 systems tested poorly. Some say that autonomous and assisted driving systems are responsible for fatal crashes.

How safe are autonomous trucks? ›

Autonomous Truck Wrecks: Safety Concerns

This can lead to a potentially deadly accident. Hacked Technology: Autonomous trucks can be hacked, with someone remotely taking control of the vehicle via the truck's computer system. This can turn the truck into a weapon.

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