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Self-Driving Cars: Transportation Secretary Chao Announces New Guidelines for Autonomous Vehicles

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently announced through DOT head Elaine L. Chao revised guidelines for the deployment and testing of self-driving cars. This is the second version of guidelines released by the Obama administration in the Fall of 2016. Always intended to be periodically updated, these guidelines set the tone for the regulation of those creating and testing autonomous vehicles (AVs).

Referred to as “A Vision for Safety 2.0,” it’s primarily concerned with separating the roles to be played by the federal government versus the states in establishing the rules AV developers must follow in testing self-driving technologies on public roads. That is, an attempt to create a national approach to the issue rather than have a hodgepodge of rules established by separate states.

The original guidelines proposed huge federal oversight involving reams of paperwork and multiple approvals throughout the process of developing and testing autonomous technologies. Version 2.0 streamlines and simplifies the process for AV developers.

Focusing on the “SAE International Levels of Automation 3-5 — Automated Driving Systems (ADS),” meaning the levels of Conditional, High and Full Automation, Vision 2.0 clarifies the guidance process, relieving AV developers from waiting for regulator approval to test and deploy AV technology. It eliminates unnecessary design elements from the safety self-assessment, and aligns federal guidance with the latest developments and industry terminology. Finally, it clarifies federal and state roles going forward.

Vision 2.0 also prevents states from favoring established carmakers over newer innovators in developing and testing AVs.

We can expect further revision of these guidelines as technology for self-driving cars pushes forward. DOT and NHTSA are already working on Vision 3.0.

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