US rolls out revised self-driving rules
The US Department of Transportation released its third instalment of its voluntary autonomous-vehicle guidelines. Under the new rules, ‘driver’ can refer to automated systems.
“The integration of automation across our transportation system has the potential to increase productivity and facilitate freight movement,” said DOT Secretary Elaine Chao. “But most importantly, automation has the potential to impact safety significantly, by reducing crashes caused by human error, including crashes involving impaired or distracted drivers, and saving lives.”
The latest version of the report is an update to last year’s guidance and it encourages companies developing self-driving systems to make public their Voluntary Safety Self-Assessments, which were introduced in last year’s report.
While autonomous technology may be making headway, the past year has shown it is far from flawless, particularly after a self-driving Uber vehicles struck and killed a pedestrian.
“The public has legitimate concerns about the safety, security and privacy of automated technology,” said Chao in the report.
There is also the issue of aceptance: a March survey by AAA found that 73% of respondents would be afraid to ride in self-driving cars.
“Consumer acceptance will be the constraint to growth of this technology,” said Chao. “Without public acceptance, the full potential of these technologies will never be realised.”
Nevertheless, safety advocates fear the voluntary guidelines are insufficient. The Centre of Auto Safety said in a statement: “Despite deaths, injuries and crashes involving a variety of semi-autonomous and autonomous vehicle technology across the country, DOT continues to insist that eliminating regulation is the way to achieve safety. The potential for safety advancements or deadly disasters presented by autonomous vehicle technology is huge.”
As part of the guidelines, the DOT is considering an exemption to certain Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards for General Motors. The DOT will also cease recognising the ten autonomous proving grounds established by then president Obama, citing the increase in testing across the nation.
The DOT will also adapt its definitions of ‘driver’ and ‘operator’ to reflect that they no longer always refer to a human and can also encompass automated systems.
Image: self-driving Uber in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania