NHTSA Sets Guidelines for Self-Driving Cars

Detroit News - May 31, 2013

NHTSA Admin­is­tra­tor David Strick­land urges states to place lim­i­ta­tions to pro­tect the pub­lic, as self-dri­ving vehi­cles are test­ed on U.S. roads and high­ways.

Find out more about the agency’s ground­work for nation­al reg­u­la­tion.

The Nation­al High­way Traf­fic Safe­ty Admin­is­tra­tion unveiled new guide­lines to states for self-dri­ving cars, urg­ing they be used only for test­ing and requir­ing safe­guards to ensure they can be tak­en over by a dri­ver in the case of mal­func­tion.

“There is great promise in this tech­nol­o­gy,” NHTSA Admin­is­tra­tor David Strick­land said Thurs­day in a tele­phone inter­view from South Korea. “These are test vehi­cles, and (states) should have poli­cies in place to make sure the dri­ving pub­lic is safe dri­ving along­side them.”

The auto safe­ty agency is lay­ing the ground­work for nation­wide reg­u­la­tions if autonomous vehi­cles become com­mer­cial­ly avail­able. A num­ber of states have sought input from the agency, which doesn’t want states set­ting their own safe­ty require­ments.

NHTSA said it was embark­ing on a four-year research effort on self-dri­ving or autonomous vehi­cles as it con­sid­ers requir­ing fea­tures like auto­mat­ic brak­ing to pre­vent crash­es.

“We believe there are a num­ber of tech­no­log­i­cal issues as well as human per­for­mance issues that must be addressed before self-dri­ving vehi­cles can be made wide­ly avail­able,” NHTSA said.”“Self-driving vehi­cle tech­nol­o­gy is not yet at the stage of sophis­ti­ca­tion or demon­strat­ed safe­ty capa­bil­i­ty that it should be autho­rized for use by mem­bers of the pub­lic for gen­er­al dri­ving pur­pos­es.”

NHTSA wants test dri­vers to get spe­cial licens­es. If a state was to allow use of self-dri­ving vehi­cles by the pub­lic, the agency urged them to require a spe­cial license and to man­date that per­son sit in the driver’s seat, ready to take over.

“We only have one shot at this,” Strick­land said. He said if there’s a crash that can attrib­uted to bad plan­ning or bad research, it will set back “the efforts of every­body in the space, and we lose the oppor­tu­ni­ty to gain the safe­ty ben­e­fits.

 

 

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