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“Show me the Autonomy!” Federal Agencies Publish Latest Autonomous Vehicle Safety Guidelines

 

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by Aaron Mack in Regulatory
September 18, 2017

Recently, the US DOT and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) published revised safety guidelines for autonomous vehicles. The new report—A Vision for Safety—replaces guidelines released in 2016 under the Obama administration.

The revised guidelines present auto and equipment manufacturers with a voluntary framework for testing and reporting the safety performance of key automated driving systems. They also allow manufacturers to move forward with the testing of such systems without the need for federal approval.

The new, and comparatively more relaxed, guidelines are viewed by many as a push by the federal agencies to quicken the appearance of autonomous vehicles on America’s roads. In the report’s introduction, US DOT Secretary Elaine Chao notes that traffic-related fatalities spiked sharply in 2015 by more than 7%–the largest single-year increase since 1966—with human error accounting for 94% of all serious traffic incidents. Semi- and fully-automated vehicle systems are anticipated to cut these statistics by a large margin, with accompanying benefits to road network efficiency and the environment.

Demonstrating that autonomous vehicles are truly safer than their human-driven counterparts is paramount, however. With the new guidelines, the Federal Government is putting manufacturers in the driver’s seat to prove this is the case. The report also advises states to avoid passing laws that interfere with NHTSA’s safety and design performance regulations—an attempt to avoid conflicts between state and federal regulations, which could slow the pace of deployment.

View the full report here.

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