Automated Vehicles Policy issued by U.S. DOT

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has released its federal policy for automated vehicles.

The policy has four key parts:

  • 15 Point Safety Assessment—The Vehicle Performance Guidance for Automated Vehicles for manufacturers, developers and other organizations;
  • Model State Policy—This section outlines the distinctions 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 section outlines current 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; and
  • Modern Regulatory Tools—This section identifies new regulatory tools and statutory authorities policymakers may consider in the future to aid the safe and efficient deployment of new 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.

The policy reflects significant public input and stakeholder discussions, including two open public meetings this year and an open public docket for comments. The Department is also soliciting additional public comments for the next 60 days on the policy, which is published at https://www.transportation.gov/AV/federal-automated-vehicles-policy-september-2016.

“Public input has been essential to getting this right,” Foxx said. “There has been a strong call from state and local governments, industry, safety experts, mobility advocates, and average Americans to establish a clear policy for the deployment of automated vehicles on our roads. There are huge upsides and significant challenges that come with automated vehicle technology, and we will continue the conversation with the public over the coming months and years as this technology develops.”

The policy is described by DOT as “a proactive measure,” as opposed to traditional U.S. auto regulation approach of reactive, post-sale enforcement of safety standards.

More details about the policy may be found by clicking here. (https://www.transportation.gov/AV/federal-automated-vehicles-policy-september-2016)

Distracted Driving Addressed

Simultaneously with this policy, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has released a final enforcement guidance bulletin clarifying how its recall authority will apply to automated vehicle technologies. In particular, it emphasizes 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.

The full policy and additional materials can be found at https://www.transportation.gov/AV/federal-automated-vehicles-policy-september-2016.

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