Friday, May 31, 2013
U.S. Department of Transportation Releases Policy on Automated Vehicles
The U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced its new policy concerning vehicle automation, including its plans for research on related safety issues and recommendations for states addressing the testing, licensing, and regulation of self-driving vehicles.
NHTSA's policy addresses:
- An explanation of the many areas of vehicle innovation that offer potential for enormous reductions in crashes
- A summary of the research NHTSA has planned
- Recommendations to states on how best to ensure safe operation as these new concepts are being tested on highways
NHTSA is conducting research on self-driving vehicles so that the agency has the tools to establish standards for these vehicles, should the vehicles become commercially available. The first phase of this research is expected to be completed within the next four years.
NHTSA's research on vehicle automation has already led to regulatory and other policy developments. The agency's work on electronic stability control (ESC), for example, led to a standard mandating that technology on all new light vehicles since 2011.
In the policy paper, NHTSA notes, "We have done significant work on a range of crash avoidance technologies such as lane departure warning and forward collision warning (FCW). Along with ESC, we have included these two technologies [in] our New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) to encourage consumers to consider choosing models with those technologies. We are currently engaged in extensive research on automatic braking technologies (dynamic brake support and crash imminent braking), which can be considered Level 1 technologies.
Within the next year, the agency said it will make a determination on whether either or both of these two automatic braking technologies should be mandated on new cars or included within the NCAP program.
"Whether we're talking about automated features in cars today or fully automated vehicles of the future, our top priority is to ensure these vehicles - and their occupants - are safe," said Secretary Ray LaHood. "Our research covers all levels of automation, including advances like automatic braking that may save lives in the near term, while the recommendations to states help them better oversee self-driving vehicle development, which holds promising long-term safety benefits."