The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is dealing with the “too much too little” quandary over how driverless cars should be regulated. NHTSA just issued its most detailed statement on it so far – it wants to see drivers testing out these cars to get extra training and special licenses to prove they can safely operate these vehicles on public roads – and only test vehicles on roads for now. Along with that, the agency warned states against imposing too many specific guidelines on this rapidly changing technology.
NHTSA expects to see limited self-driving capability by 2020 and fully autonomous vehicles by 2025 in significant numbers; right now, a few states, including Nevada, California, and Florida, have passed laws that allow for testing of driverless cars on public streets. Regulators have been very enthusiastic about promoting research in self-driving cars with its potential for reducing highway crashes and deaths and for curbing emissions.
Deputy NHTSA Administrator David Friedman said the guidelines are aimed at advising states on how to ensure that autonomous vehicles can co-exist safely with other vehicles on roads. One issue NHTSA wants to see tested and dealt with is how much warning drivers need of a problem that requires them to retake controls of a car that has been driving itself.
The NHTSA document also defined five levels of automation in these cars to clear up any confusion on how agency sees the technology – from “Level 0” cars where drivers have full control to “Level 4” which are “full self driving automation”. Google cars have “Level 3” with its “limited automation” – cars use laser sensors and mapping technology.
General Motors is “encouraged that NHTSA recognizes greater regulatory consistency and industry collaboration can help put these technologies on the road quicker.”