Bring An Equalizer to the Fight. Choose a Firm That Was Created to Advocate for Victims.

Safety Regulator Releases Rules for Self-Driving Cars

As other states seek to join California in allowing autonomous or “self-driving” vehicles on their roadways, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) has released a policy statement containing rules and regulations for these new vehicles.

While the agency is optimistic about the new technology’s ability to prevent motor vehicle accidents, it also wants to make sure the technology is safe before it is made available to the public.

“We’re encouraged by the new automated vehicle technologies being developed and implemented today, but want to ensure that motor vehicle safety is considered in the development of these advances,” said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. “As additional states consider similar legislation, our recommendations provide lawmakers with the tools they need to encourage the safe development and implementation of automated vehicle technology.”

The policy statement first breaks down vehicle automation into several level, which are largely defined by the level of human involvement:

  • Function-specific Automation (Level 1): Automation at this level involves one or more specific control functions. Examples include electronic stability control or pre-charged brakes, where the vehicle automatically assists with braking to enable the driver to regain control of the vehicle or stop faster than possible by acting alone.
  • Combined Function Automation (Level 2): This level involves automation of at least two primary control functions designed to work in unison to relieve the driver of control of those functions. An example of combined functions enabling a Level 2 system is adaptive cruise control in combination with lane centering.
  • Limited Self-Driving Automation (Level 3): Vehicles at this level of automation enable the driver to cede full control of all safety-critical functions under certain traffic or environmental conditions and in those conditions to rely heavily on the vehicle to monitor for changes in those conditions requiring transition back to driver control. The driver is expected to be available for occasional control, but with sufficiently comfortable transition time. The Google car is an example of limited self-driving automation.
  • Full Self-Driving Automation (Level 4): The vehicle is designed to perform all safety-critical driving functions and monitor roadway conditions for an entire trip. Such a design anticipates that the driver will provide destination or navigation input, but is not expected to be available for control at any time during the trip. This includes both occupied and unoccupied vehicles.

When it comes to self-driving vehicle like the Goggle car, the agency is still cautious about safety and plans to conduct its own research on the technology.

“NHTSA does not recommend that states authorize the operation of self-driving vehicles for purposes other than testing at this time,” the agency said in its statement. “We believe there are a number of technological issues as well as human performance issues that must be addressed before self-driving vehicles can be made widely available.”

Going forward, the NHTSA also calls for separate driver licenses, or at least special driver license endorsements, for autonomous vehicles.