In a new report, the DOT takes a serious look at how the U.S government should regulate autonomous vehicles.

The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) is announcing comprehensive federal guidelines for the future of autonomous vehicles. The agency believes that it needs to take a proactive stance on this cutting-edge tech’s development and intends updates for these recommendations annually depending on how the systems evolve.

A major focus of the new policy is making sure that autonomous vehicles are as safe as possible. The DOT has a 15-point safety assessment for any company that wants to release a self-driving system. It wants these questions “to set clear expectations for manufacturers developing and deploying automated vehicle technologies.”

Autonomous Car Examples
Autonomous Car Examples


The points cover basic facts like documenting how the autonomous system operates, but the DOT digs much deeper, too. It wants companies to outline a plan of what happens if this tech fails. Manufacturers also need to outline their ethical considerations by explaining how the artificial intelligence deals with safety dilemmas on the road. In case something does go wrong, companies need to build data recording into their autonomous software that would allow for crash reconstruction.

The DOT also scrutinizes the different roles of federal and state agencies for regulating autonomous vehicles. The national government is mostly responsible for setting and enforcing safety standards. The states then have the tough job of creating rules for self-driving tech’s testing and deployment on their roads.

Autonomous Car Examples
Autonomous Car Examples
Autonomous Car Examples


The department understands that internal improvements are necessary, too. Government bureaucracy can be infamously slow to react, but the DOT is promising that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) would answer requests more quickly. For example, the agency will now respond to questions about interpreting the regulations within 60 days rather than taking months. It will also look at applications for exemptions to the rules within six months rather than waiting years.

In the future, the DOT expects that it might need new authority for ensuring autonomous vehicle safety. For example, NHTSA could require automakers to record even more data about how the systems operate. The agency might also get the authority to take immediate action if a fault poses a serious hazard to owners. The regulator could even get the ability to inspect and approve driverless tech before it hits the market.

Although there haven't been concrete steps from Transport Canada regarding autonomous vehicles, keeping a close eye on what happens in the U.S. will be a good indicator of what's to happen here.

Source: The Department of Transportation

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