After months of build-up, the National Highway Safety Transportation Administration (NHTSA) released its Federal Autonomous Vehicles Policy. It turns out the hype was merited. As stated in NHTSA’s press release, this 116-document “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. 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.”
I’m still digging into the details and I am planning on more blog posts on this topic, but I’ll share a few of my reactions and some that I’ve read:
- To date, I’ve referred to fully automated vehicles as driverless vehicles, self-driving vehicles, or autonomous vehicles. The federal government has now introduced a new term: highly automated vehicles (HAVs).
- NHTSA has a lot of policy supporters. This article includes some heavy hitters in the industry voicing their appreciation for the federal government’s leadership.
- As this article points out, the policy states that “vehicles should record, at a minimum, all information relevant to the [crash] and the performance of the system, so the circumstances of the event can be reconstructed.” While it’s unclear exactly how the data sharing will happen, this is certainly a challenge…. And a broader governmental issue that needs to be resolved sooner rather than later as the government pursues partnerships with new mobility companies (e.g., Uber, Zipcar, etc) today.
- I may be missing it, but the policy does not seem to mention the freight industry. This article suggests that the freight industry was not involved in the policy development. Hopefully, they will speak up during this 60-day comment period because they are important stakeholders!
- I think the delineation between federal and state roles is logical and clear. As stated in this article, “when humans are driving, states are in charge, but when software is driving, the feds are in charge.”
- I haven’t heard or seen any mention of federal funding supporting the advancement of this technology. We will likely have to wait until the next presidential term to see how that shakes out.
I’m most impressed by the US DOT’s leadership and progressive stance regarding accelerating the development and adoption of highly automated vehicles. I think their approach is admirable and will likely be studied and, ultimately, copied by many other countries. What did everyone else think?