Washington — Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is one of nine companies participating in a U.S. Department of Transportation initiative designed to improve the safety and testing transparency of self-driving cars, and Michigan is one of eight states also joining the effort. 

But safety advocates sharply criticized the transportation department for sticking with an voluntary approach to self-driving regulation that critics have described as toothless, citing fatal accidents involving partially autonomous cars that have been operated in recent years by companies such as Tesla and Uber. 

The agency announced Monday the formation of a new Automated Vehicle Transparency and Engagement for Safe Testing (AV TEST) Initiative that it said will include “a series of public events across the country to improve transparency and safety in the development and testing of automated driving systems.” 

The voluntary initiative will provide an online platform for sharing details about testing with the public.

“This will help improve safety and transparency for the on-road testing of automated vehicles,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said in a virtual launch event that took place Monday.

Fiat Chrysler is joined by Cruise, Navya, Nuro, Toyota, Uber, Waymo, Beep and Local Motors. Michigan is joined by California, Florida, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Utah.

In a statement, a spokesperson said the company’s autonomous vehicle strategy includes participation in industry-wide initiatives such as the the new federal initiative to address a rapidly changing market.”  

The Michigan Department of Transportation did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

“The Department of Transportation in concert with NHTSA has once again chosen to…