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Federal Government Releases Automated Vehicle Policy

The Department of Transportation (DOT) recently released its policy for automated vehicles. While driverless cars have the potential to reduce crashes caused by human error, the new technology poses a number of regulatory challenges.

“Automated vehicles have the potential to save thousands of lives, driving the single biggest leap in road safety that our country has ever taken,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “This policy is an unprecedented step by the federal government to harness the benefits of transformative technology by providing a framework for how to do it safely.”

As outlined by the DOT, the policy has four main components:

  • Vehicle performance guidance for manufacturers, developers, and other organizations outlining a 15 point “Safety Assessment” for the safe design, development, testing, and deployment of highly automated vehicles, including a request that automakers sign and submit this safety assessment to certify that their vehicles are ready for public roads.
  • Model for state policy that presents a clear distinction between Federal and State responsibilities and recommends policy areas for states to consider with a goal of generating a consistent national framework for the testing and operation of automated vehicles while leaving room for state discretion.
  • Current regulatory tools that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) can use to aid the safe development of automated vehicles, such as interpreting current rules to allow for appropriate flexibility in design, providing limited exemptions to allow for testing of nontraditional vehicle designs, and verifying that unsafe automated vehicles are removed from the road.
  • New tools and authorities that NHTSA could consider seeking in the future to aid the safe and efficient deployment of new technologies, such as whether to create a new federal safety standard for revolutionary vehicle designs, such as ones that do not require a steering wheel or gas pedal.

As San Diego product liability lawyers, we are pleased that the DOT has also published a final enforcement guidance bulletin regarding how its recall authority applies to automated vehicle technologies. Of particular importance, the guidance emphasizes that “semi-automated driving systems – ones in which the human continues to monitor the driving environment and perform some of the driving task – that fail to adequately account for the possibility that a distracted or inattentive driver-occupant might fail to retake control of the vehicle in a safety-critical situation may be defined as an unreasonable risk to safety and subject to recall.”

If you or someone you love has suffered serious injury in a California motor vehicle accident, don’t hesitate to contact a San Diego injury lawyer at the Law Offices of Robert Vaage for a free consultation. We have the knowledge and experience to obtain the compensation that injury victims deserve.