NHTSA Lays Out Detailed Guidelines on its Driverless Car Policies

Google Driverless Prius

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.”




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