As more manufacturers advance self-driving car technology – and in the wake of the first reported fatality involving the crash of an automobile in autonomous mode – the U.S. Department of Transportation and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have issued a new federal guidance for the development of self-driving vehicles.
According to the agency, the new policy will lay out 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.”
The policy establishes highly proactive standards for auto manufacturers in advance of actually releasing an autonomous vehicle. Automakers will have to assess system designs, development, testing, and deployment issues prior to offering the system or vehicle for sale or putting it into service on public roads.
The new guidance on vehicle performance guidance uses a 15-point Safety Assessment to set expectations for manufacturers developing and deploying automated vehicle technologies. An accompanying model state policy outlines the federal and state roles for the regulation of highly automated vehicle technologies as a way to build a “consistent national framework of laws to govern self-driving vehicles.”
The policy also outlines options for the further use of current federal laws to expedite the safe introduction of highly automated vehicles into the marketplace, and describes new tools and authorities the federal government may need as the technology evolves and is deployed more widely
“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. “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.”