With autonomous vehicles at the tip of everyone’s tongue, it is not unreasonable to expect they could be commonplace within the next five to ten years. Google, Tesla, Uber, and seemingly innumerable other household names are investing capital and time in comprehensive self-driving vehicle initiatives. Even the government is now getting behind the idea.
As a result, the Federal Automated Vehicles Policy was recently released. Outlining a set of fifteen safety assessment objectives, the legislation sets some ground rules for how these vehicles must be manufactured. It further articulates the division between state and federal responsibilities in addition to explicitly stating what regulatory tools the DOT plans to use. When asked about the policy, the Department of Transportation replied the policy is “rooted in [its] view that automated vehicles hold enormous potential benefits for safety, mobility, and sustainability.”
This becomes clear when flipping through the policy’s fifteen point safety assessment. It reviews how companies should validate their self-driving system, how their vehicles should collect, share, and analyze data, and how autonomous vehicles should react in the event of a crash. Just as well, the policy covers the system’s user interface in addition to how it should protect the user’s privacy. Although this report is a fantastic glimpse into the government’s stance on AVs, there is a more detailed report slated for release on Tuesday.
With respect to the division between state and federal responsibilities, the feds are to take charge of setting safety standards, looking into and supervising recalls, and enforcing adherence to said safety standards. State authorities will be working to complement federal efforts by supervising the licensing process for each individual, registering each AV, enforcing traffic laws, and carrying out safety inspections. Essentially, DOT said it best to Vox: “The feds are in charge when the software is driving, but state authorities are in charge when the human driver is the one steering the wheel.”
It’s not just the private sector championing autonomous vehicles either. The President of the United States actually published an op-ed in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh is the test-site for Uber’s self-driving taxis) discussing how AVs have the potential to save tens of thousands of lives. With the government and the private sector working together to make our roads safer, autonomous vehicles will be saving lives in no time.