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Automated Vehicles policy

The federal government finally got on the same path as automobile and technology companies that are racing toward a future with autonomous vehicles as a policy outlining manufacturing and safety guidelines and more was released by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The policies were unveiled Monday by Anthony Foxx, secretary of Transportation, and Jeffrey Zients, director of the National Economic Council.

In an introduction to the Federal Automated Vehicles Policy, Foxx said the “self-driving car raises more possibilities and more questions than perhaps any other transportation innovation under present discussion.”

“Possessing the potential to uproot personal mobility as we know it, to make it safer and even more ubiquitous than conventional automobiles and perhaps even more efficient, self-driving cars have become the archetype of our future transportation,” Foxx said. “Still, important concerns emerge. Will they fully replace the human driver? What ethical judgments will they be called upon to make? What socioeconomic impacts flow from such a dramatic change? Will they disrupt the nature of privacy and security?”

The policy targets four main areas: vehicle performance guidance for automated vehicles; model state policy; National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s current regulatory tools; regulatory tools for the future.

Autonomous vehicles framework

“We’re envisioning a future where you can take your hands off the wheel and the wheel out of the car, and where your commute becomes productive and restful, rather than frustrating and exhausting,” Zients said in a story on The Verge.

The policy says that DOT’s excitement around highly automated vehicles (HAVs) starts with safety and cites the fact that 35,092 people died on U.S. roadways in 2015 alone. Also adding that 94 percent of crashes can be tied to a human choice or error.

“An important promise of HAVs is to address and mitigate that overwhelming majority of crashes,” the policy reads. “Whether through technology that corrects for human mistakes, or through technology that takes over the full driving responsibility, automated driving innovations could dramatically decrease the number of crashes tied to human choices and behavior.”

A 15-point safety assessment, designed to evaluate how safety is being addressed by self-driving vehicle manufactures, would cover these areas:

  • Data Recording and Sharing
  • Privacy
  • System Safety
  • Vehicle Cybersecurity
  • Human Machine Interface
  • Crashworthiness
  • Consumer Education and Training
  • Registration and Certification
  • Post-Crash Behavior
  • Federal, State and Local Laws
  • Ethical Considerations
  • Operational Design Domain
  • Object and Event Detection and Response
  • Fall Back (Minimal Risk Condition)
  • Validation Methods
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