DOT Paves The Road For Driverless Vehicles
It’s not just the trucking industry that seems divided on the topic of autonomous vehicles – the general public is split on how they feel about driverless cars and trucks out on the roadways. Truck and car manufacturers alike are already putting serious time and money into developing driverless technologies and pushing federal legislators to keep up with the times. It seems autonomous vehicle supporters may get their wish as the Department of Transportation has just announced a policy for regulating the safe testing and deployment of existing and new self-driving technologies.
According to the DOT, the new policy is not seeking to set specific rules that will govern and regulate autonomous vehicles for all time. Instead, the DOT recognizes that, as it says, “the rise of new technology is inevitable,” and that it may not make sense to over-regulate something that we do not yet fully understand right out of the gate.
“We do not intend to write the final word on highly automated vehicles here,” states the Federal Automated Vehicles Policy. “Rather, we intend to establish a foundation and a framework upon which future Agency action will occur.”
The framework essentially puts in place a few key guidelines including a 15-point safety assessment for autonomous vehicles to make sure that manufacturers and developers can safely design, develop, test, and deploy autonomous vehicles. The safety assessment sets guidelines and goals for how an autonomous vehicle should respond to certain situations, how it records data, and much more.
The motivation for the DOT is simple: as Mark Rosekind, administrator of the NHTSA pointed out, 94% of crashes on U.S. roadways are caused by human choice or error.
“Automated vehicles have the potential to save thousands of lives, driving the single biggest leap in road safety that our country has ever taken,” said DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx. “This policy is an unprecedented step by the federal government to harness the benefits of transformative technology by providing a framework for how to do it safely.”
Foxx went on to acknowledge that there are those who are uneasy with the idea of autonomous vehicles, but likened the resistance to the public’s outcry against seat belt and air bag regulation – policies which have saved countless lives.
Some autonomous vehicle critics see the new policy as a much-needed regulatory step to make sure new technology is being developed safely. Others meanwhile, like the National Safety Council, warn that unless the government does more to exert strong oversight, consumers could find themselves being treated as “human guinea pigs.”
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