With new bills being considered by the Legislative Branch of the government that have autonomous driving as their subject, the march toward self-driving cars is moving forward. For the past couple of years we’ve discussed the amount of money being invested by automakers in this technology and the possibilities, but always with a caveat that legislation could arise that would slow things down. Recently, we’ve found out that the government doesn’t want to get in the way of progress in this area and with bills being passed that will allow testing and driving on all roads in the country, autonomy may be here sooner than you would expect.
A Vision for Safety 2.0
The name of what the US DOT and NHTSA have put together to guide those companies that are planning and ready to test their self-driving vehicles on the road is “A Vision for Safety 2.0.” This document spells out the different aspects of consideration when it comes to the autonomous vehicles that could end up on the road. These guidelines aren’t rules or laws at all, but are actually guides with the use of the words “encouraged” and “should” many times in the publication.
What does this publication cover? It discusses the use of test tracks and simulators prior to heading out on the public roads and why that’s an important aspect of testing. Many vehicles need to be tested further on the tracks and during simulations rather than being put in traffic and used on the roads right away. Another aspect of the testing that needs to be more concise is the ability or inability of the vehicles to be hacked and taken over when driving. This testing is necessary, but once again, is simply encouraged and not demanded.
Defending Their Turf
When it comes to the separation of regulations, the NHTSA is defending its turf, even though the current Presidential Administration is typically opposed to regulations. As it stands, the NHTSA is responsible for regulating motor vehicles and the equipment contained, while the individual states are responsible for the human driver and the operation of the vehicle. This means you can still see varying speed limits, different DUI thresholds, and helmet laws, but the way the vehicle operates from state to state will be consistent with the guidance of the NHTSA offering the nationwide consistency that’s needed.
Thankfully, the document also recognizes that automation can be a life-saving technology that will need to continue to be developed so that we can have the autonomous driving technology in the cars we enjoy in the near future. Eventually, regulations will begin to be put in place, but right now the federal government is making decisions to try and move out of the way in order to allow the development of this technology so that it can be added to the market sooner rather than later. With this open door, it seems the race for autonomy is more active and important than ever before.