Primary focus of policy is highly automated vehicles, which the vehicle can take full control of in some circumstances
WASHINGTON—The US Department of Transportation is issuing Federal policy for automated vehicles, laying a path for the safe testing and deployment of new auto technologies that have enormous potential for improving safety and mobility for Americans on the road.
“Automated vehicles have the potential to save thousands of lives, driving the single biggest leap in road safety that our country has ever taken,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.
The policy sets a proactive approach to providing safety assurance and facilitating innovation through four key parts. Vehicle performance guidance uses a 15-point Safety Assessment to set clear expectations for manufacturers developing and deploying automated vehicle technologies.
“This policy is an unprecedented step by the federal government to harness the benefits of transformative technology by providing a framework for how to do it safely,” said Foxx.
Model state policy delineates the Federal and State roles for the regulation of highly automated vehicle technologies as part of an effort to build a consistent national framework of laws to govern self-driving vehicles.
Finally, the policy outlines options for the further use of current federal authorities to expedite the safe introduction of highly automated vehicles into the marketplace, as well as discusses new tools and authorities the federal government may need as the technology evolves and is deployed more widely
“Ninety-four percent of crashes on US roadways are caused by a human choice or error,” said NHTSA Administrator Dr. Mark Rosekind.
“New technologies developed in the 20th century, like seat belts and air bags, were once controversial but have now saved hundreds of thousands of American lives,” Secretary Foxx said. “This is the first in a series of proactive approaches, including the release of a rule on Vehicle to Vehicle communications, which will bring lifesaving technologies to the roads safely and quickly while leaving innovators to dream up new safety solutions.”
A summary of each section of the policy follows:
- 15 Point Safety Assessment –The Vehicle Performance Guidance for Automated Vehicles for manufacturers, developers and other organizations includes a 15 point “Safety Assessment” for the safe design, development, testing and deployment of automated vehicles.
- Model State Policy – This section presents a clear distinction between Federal and State responsibilities for regulation of highly automated vehicles, and suggests recommended policy areas for states to consider with a goal of generating a consistent national framework for the testing and deployment of highly automated vehicles.
- NHTSA’s Current Regulatory Tools – This discussion outlines NHTSA’s current regulatory tools that can be used to ensure the safe development of new technologies, such as interpreting current rules to allow for greater flexibility in design and providing limited exemptions to allow for testing of nontraditional vehicle designs in a more timely fashion.
- Modern Regulatory Tools – This discussion identifies new regulatory tools and statutory authorities that policymakers may consider in the future to aid the safe and efficient deployment of new lifesaving technologies.
The primary focus of the policy is on highly automated vehicles, or those in which the vehicle can take full control of the driving task in at least some circumstances.
Portions of the policy also apply to lower levels of automation, including some of the driver-assistance systems already being deployed by automakers today.
Simultaneously with this policy, NHTSA is releasing a final enforcement guidance bulletin clarifying how its recall authority will apply to automated vehicle technologies.
In particular, it emphasizes that semi-autonomous driving systems that fail to adequately account for the possibility that a distracted or inattentive driver-occupant might fail to retake control of the vehicle in a safety-critical situation may be defined as an unreasonable risk to safety and subject to recall.