NHTSA to hold hearings on driverless cars
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) will hold a pair of public meetings this spring to gather input as it develops guidelines for the safe deployment of automated safety technology. The meetings, to be held in Washington, D.C., and California, will gather information on a series of issues related to safe operation of automated vehicles as part of NHTSA’s efforts to provide manufacturers with operational guidance.
"Witnessing a revolution"
“We are witnessing a revolution in auto technology that has the potential to save thousands of lives,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “In order to achieve that potential, we need to establish guidelines for manufacturers that clearly outline how we expect automated vehicles to function – not only safely, but more safely – on our roads.”
The operational guidelines are one of five NHTSA initiatives Foxx announced in January at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, which also include:
- President Obama’s budget proposal for a 10-year, $3.9 billion investment in advancing autonomous vehicle technology, including large deployment pilots in communities around the country.
- Working with states to develop model state policy.
- Using NHTSA’s existing authority to interpret current regulations, and offer limited exemptions from those regulations, in pursuit of advances that could increase safety.
- Determining what new regulatory tools and authorities might be required to meet NHTSA’s safety mission in an era of rapidly changing technology.
There may be design obstacles
The agency on Friday also released an initial assessment of current Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards that identifies key challenges in full deployment of automated vehicles. The report, prepared by USDOT’s Volpe National Transportation Systems Center, found that there are few existing federal regulatory hurdles to deployment of automated vehicles with traditional designs and equipment to accommodate a human driver. But the report found that there may be greater obstacles to vehicle designs without controls for human drivers, such as a steering wheel or brake pedals. The Volpe Center produced the report at the request of NHTSA and DOT’s Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Program Office.
“The Volpe Center report is a great first look at the current standards, and it highlights the need for the actions Secretary Foxx outlined in January,” said NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind. “It also shows there are few current restrictions on some automated vehicle concepts, which highlights the need to establish clear expectations for their safe operation. At the same time, for other vehicle designs, the agency has more work to do to ensure the safety of new innovations, and we look forward to learning more from stakeholders as we start that work.”
NHTSA will hold its first public meeting on April 8 at USDOT Headquarters in Washington, D.C. Details on date and location of the second meeting in California, as well as how members of the public can participate, will be published soon.
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