Self-Driving Car Regulatory Guidelines Provide Streamlined Processes, Fewer Barriers for Testing

Federal highway safety officials have released a new guidance for automobile manufacturers regarding self-driving cars, promoting the testing and development of technology that is widely seen as a path to reduce the number of auto accidents and deaths each year. 

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released new federal guidelines for Automated Driving Systems (ADS) on September 12, providing recommendations for the automotive industry and States to follow while developing the evolving technologies used in self-driving vehicles.

The guidance, A Vision for Safety 2.0, was released as a supportive effort to help automotive companies develop autonomous driving technologies that are designed to prevent human-error accidents such as crashes caused by lane departures and failure to brake, which make up the majority of auto accidents each year.

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The prior Federal Automated Vehicle Policy was released in 2016, and the new guidance provides a framework that officials say offers a path toward the safe development of automated vehicles while encouraging new ideas that can develop safer technologies.

“The new Guidance supports further development of this important new technology, which has the potential to change the way we travel and how we deliver goods and services,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao said in the press release. “The safe deployment of  automated vehicle technologies means we can look forward to a future with fewer traffic fatalities and increased mobility for all Americans.”

Chao said the framework of the guidance will help make the regulatory process in which the department puts forth more nimble, to help match the pace of private sector innovation, so that safety advancements are not held up from progress.

Specifically, the guidance is aligned with the latest developments and industry terminology and clarifies the Federal and State roles moving forward with automated vehicle technology implementation.

While setting the framework, the guidance also has revised unnecessary design elements from the safety self-assessment and clarifies that entities do not need to wait to test or deploy their automated driving systems.

Automated driving systems are projected to save tens of thousands of lives annually, while reducing vehicle crash injuries and billions in medical costs accrued annually.

Injury and fatality data from a National Safety Council (NSC) study earlier this year indicated more than 4.6 million roadway users were injured seriously enough to require medical attention in 2016, resulting in roughly 40,000 fatalities.

The traffic related injuries and fatalities included all vehicle related accidents, as well as all pedestrian and bicycle collisions, which have been on a sharp increase over the last several years, according to the NHTSA.

The NSC survey data indicates that traffic related accidents and injuries or all degrees cost society an estimated $432 billion in 2016 alone, making it one of the largest financial hits since 1921 when the NSC began issuing traffic fatality estimates.

With a six percent increase in motor vehicles deaths in last year over 2015, and a 14% increase when compared to 2014, the need for increased driving safety technologies is apparent.

The Vision for Safety 2.0 indicates an estimated 94% of automobile accidents are caused or contributed to by human error that could be preventable if the proper technology and systems were put in vehicles.

Technologies that could prevent drivers from veering off of the road or into oncoming traffic due to looking at their cell phones could prevent tragedies on both parties involved in accidents.

Furthermore, automated driving systems are anticipated to be a major advancement for those who are unable to drive, such as the elderly, disabled or ill, said Chao.


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