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AASHTO Journal

USDOT Releases New Guidance for Vehicles With Automated Driving Systems

The U.S. Department of Transportation and its National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued new voluntary guidance about developing vehicles using automated driving systems, in what was widely reported to be a more industry-friendly version than guidance last year by the Obama administration.

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said the latest guidance, dubbed 2.0, "supports further development of this important new technology, which has the potential to change the way we travel and how we deliver goods and services. The safe deployment of automated vehicle technologies means we can look forward to a future with fewer traffic fatalities and increased mobility for all Americans."

WardsAuto reported that the Trump administration's version "is considered more flexible" in guiding industry and state governments toward bringing fully automated cars and trucks to U.S. roads.

dollarpump.jpg"For example," the story said, "the guidance clears the way for automakers and suppliers to test autonomous systems on the open road without obtaining regulatory permission and clarifies the role of federal and state bodies on the issue: NHTSA will regulate vehicle safety and equipment, while states will be responsible for drivers and vehicle operation."

The Washington Post said it "continues, and expands, [the] hands-off approach" taken under the prior administration.

Among other things, the USDOT said the new document "clarifies the guidance process and that entities do not need to wait to test or deploy" their automated systems." It also "revises unnecessary design elements from the safety self-assessment, the department said, and "aligns federal guidance with the latest developments and industry terminology."

Here is the guidance document, which the USDOT titled "Automated Driving Systems 2.0:  A Vision for Safety."

This will not be the last version of federal guidance, either, on the technologies that could eventually have driverless cars and commercial trucks operating across the nation.

"As automated technologies advance, so will the department's guidance," the USDOT said. "It is intended to be flexible and to evolve as technology does. In fact, DOT and NHTSA are already planning for 3.0."

News reports noted that the latest guidance trims what had been a voluntary 15-point safety self-assessment called for by the Obama team to a 12-point review.

But Deborah Hersman, CEO of the National Safety Council, pointed out that participants are not submitting those voluntary reviews.

"We have been disappointed that in the year since the first guidelines were released, DOT has yet to receive any safety assessments," she said, "even though vehicles are being tested in many states. Voluntary guidelines will serve the developers of new technologies to ensure they can move quickly, but they serve public safety best if all the players agree to comply with them."  

Hersman added that it will now be up to Congress to mandate additional safety measures such as clear disclosure, robust validation processes prior to deployment and requirements to share data. And she said the council "will watch closely NHTSA's commitment to utilize its recall authority to take vehicles off the road if there is any indication of a defect that places the public in harm's way."

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