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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