US safety agency seeks input on autonomous vehicle rules
The U.S government’s road safety agency is asking for public comment on how it should regulate safe deployment of autonomous vehicles.
Seeking public comment is an early step in drawing possible regulations, yet that process takes years and could be altered by the incoming administratin of President Joe Biden.
Around 60 companies are already testing self-driving vehicles, some on public roadways without human backup drivers. Such as the Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo, which is reunning limited fully autonomous ride-hailing service in the Phoenix area.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has already taken voluntary approach to autonomous vehicles without regulations, bringing in concequence criticism from the National transportation Safety Board and safety advocates for being too hands-off.
NHTSA said that it wants public input on proposed regulation of autonomous vehicle sensores, how the vehicles detect other road users and infrastructure, how they plan routes and how they carry out that plan.
“This rulemaking will help address legitimate public concerns about safety, security and privacy without hampering innovation in the development of automated driving systems,” said Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, whose department includes NHTSA.
The agency says in documents that a new generation of motor vehicle safety standards should give manufacturers of vehicles, software, sensors and other autonomous vehicle technology. In fact, in 2019, the NTSB blamed lax regulation in part for a 2018 crash involving an Uber autonomous test vehicle in which a pedestrian was killed. Jennifer Homendy said at the time “There’s no requirement. There’s no evaluation. There’s no real strandards issued.“
While NHTSA is looking at standards, it said in the proposed rulemaking documents that it will address unreasonable safety risks by using its existing defect-investigation and remediation powers. Any regulations must be supported by data on safety needs without stifling innovation.
Jason Levine, executive director of the nonprofit Center for Auto Safety, called the request for public input strange because it comes at the end of the Trump administration. He said that his organization petitioned NHTSA seeking autonomous vehicle regulations two years ago but heard nothing. Additionally, he mentioned that the 60-day comment period, will expire about the time of Biden’s scheduled inauguration. “The optimistic way of looking at it is the DOT (Department of Transportation) finally decided that a zero oversight of the self-driving car industry was a bad idea“.