US Issues Guidelines on Self-Driving Cars

US Issues Guidelines on Self-Driving Cars

US Issues Guidelines on Self-Driving Cars

The Department of Transportation released its revised guidelines on automated driving systems Tuesday, outlining its recommended - but not mandatory - best practices for companies developing self-driving cars.

The new guidelines update policies issued last fall by the Obama administration, which were also largely voluntary.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao on Tuesday defended her department's decision to use voluntary guidelines instead of enforceable rules to regulate self-driving cars, saying a flexible approach was best for an emerging technology.

Chao said the guidance "is not a static document".

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As Forbes reports, the prevailing difference between last year's version and the one released Tuesday is one of slimmed scale and extent. On one hand, the new guidance is "less burdensome" compared to the Obama administration's September 2016 semi-voluntary guidelines released a year ago so that innovation by automakers and tech companies isn't slowed down. The proposed evaluation is down to 12 points.

The new guidelines make clear again that manufacturers are not required to submit to voluntary assessments - though they are "encouraged" - and that those assessments are "not subject to Federal approval".

Chao also said the Trump administration would give preference in its forthcoming infrastructure plan to projects that promise technology innovation that could improve safety or advance the deployment of autonomous vehicles.

David Friedman, former interim head of NHTSA, says the timing of Chao's announcement should raise some eyebrows. There are no fully self-driving vehicles for sale, but autonomous cars with backup drivers are being tested in numerous states.

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According to the NTSB assessment, the cause of the crash was a combination of the "driver's inattention" and the Tesla automation system that "permitted the auto driver's overreliance on the automation". But it said automakers should incorporate safeguards that keep drivers' attention engaged and limit the use of automated systems to the areas they were designed for, like highways.

On Sept. 13, the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing titled, Transportation Innovation: Automated Trucks and Our Nation's Highways, and will hear testimony from representatives of manufacturers, law enforcement, commercial vehicle operators, public interest groups and labor unions.

Tuesday's release of the DOT's AV guidance booklet follows the September 6 bipartisan approval by the U.S. House of Representatives of the Safely Ensuring Lives Future Deployment and Research In Vehicle Evolution (SELF DRIVE) Act, H.R. 3388.

In fact, DOT already plans to update this guidance by releasing document 3.0 in 2018, Chao said.

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