Autonomous Vehicles Gain Powerful Ally: The US Government

By Lindsey Patterson December 27, 2016

Safety and lack of federal regulations seem to have a monopoly on the hampering growth of self-driving cars. The safety of self-driving vehicles has remained a controversial subject since some semi-autonomous vehicles have already been involved in road crashes.

Of notable concern are two cases of accidents involving Tesla’s driverless cars in Florida and China. Despite the strict regulations, companies like Tesla, Google, and Uber operate thousands of driverless cars on the roads. This has forced regulators to draft guidelines that will regulate the self-driving cars.

Federal Auto Safety Regulations on Self-Driving Cars

Recently, the federal auto safety regulators opened up and attested that self-driving cars would be safer than human-driven cars. The announcement helped relieve the growing suspense in the self-driving automotive industry regarding the government’s position on the new technology’s future.

Jeffrey Zients, a senior executive in National Economic Council, said that he was confident that self-driving cars would make the driving experience comfortable and productive. He added that fully autonomous vehicles would save time spent on roads while also reducing road accidents.

Besides the announcement, the regulators also released a 15-point guideline to govern the manufacturers and the operation of self-driving cars. The safety guidelines and regulations released targeted four areas.

Areas Targeted By the 15-Point Regulations

The regulations require states to formulate uniform policies regarding the operation of autonomous vehicles. States are also required to specify how existing transport regulations relate to driverless cars. The guideline also calls upon states to formulate new transport policies regarding the driverless cars.

Some of the state regulations that need to be formulated are how to insure the driverless car, its passengers, and/or the owner. The California insurance rates could even fall because self-driving cars are prospected to cut down road accidents.

The 15-point safety guideline addresses the issue of how manufacturers should program the driverless cars to act in the event of a technological difficulty. The guidance clarifies the measures that auto manufacturers should put in place to enhance the privacy of passengers using driverless cars.

Furthermore, the 15-point guideline substantiates the issue of how driverless cars will be communicating with the passengers on board and pedestrians using the road.

The Federal guidelines called upon driverless vehicle manufacturers to clarify how their technology works and explain how they will share data collected by the autonomous vehicles. Self-driving cars and semi-autonomous vehicles that would be found unsafe would be recalled.

However, the policies were not as clear as those governing the human-driven cars. Bryan Thomas, a spokesman for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said that their aim was only to address areas that needed the response of government regulators. He further asserted that the areas they left out were to be dealt with by driverless car manufacturers.

Response on the Federal Regulations

Most car manufacturing companies said that the federal regulations were good news to them. Among them is Ford, a leading car manufacturing company that aims to release its first driverless car in 2021. The company stated that the guidelines were a stepping stone to achieve a clear national framework regarding the operation of self-driving cars. The company further expressed its dedication to participate in further development of the state regulations.

Big businesses that thrive on self-driving cars, such as Uber, Lyft, and Google cars, congratulated the guidelines. The auto manufacturers urged states and local authorities to participate in coming up with more effective federal regulations.

Public safety advocates termed the move as a good step to extend the safety laws to companies that have been secretly engaged in the driverless car project. On the flipside, the advocates indicated that the regulations may appear to contradict some state laws.

Experts have also argued that the introduced guidelines will protect manufacturers in the event of an accident. As a result, the experts argue that the laws would achieve their core objective of fueling the development of self-driving cars, since manufacturers have been reluctant to release their projects for fear of government repercussions. 



Contributing Writer

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