Products Liability Law Daily DOT lays out four-part federal policy for safe testing and deployment of automated vehicles
Tuesday, September 20, 2016

DOT lays out four-part federal policy for safe testing and deployment of automated vehicles

DOT lays out four-part federal policy for safe testing and deployment of automated vehicles

By Colleen Kave, J.D.

Utilizing an unprecedented proactive approach to auto regulation, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) unveiled a comprehensive federal policy for automated vehicles. The four-part Federal Automated Vehicle Policy sets a framework for the safe testing and deployment of new auto technologies that promise to improve safety and mobility for Americans on the road. DOT has requested additional public comments for the next 60 days on the policy, and it intends to update the policy annually (U.S. Department of Transportation Press Release, September 20, 2016).

The policy, which is the product of significant public and stakeholder input gathered from two open public meetings earlier this year and an open public docket for comments, contains four key sections aimed at providing safety assurance and facilitating innovation. The Vehicle Performance Guidance for Automated Vehicles includes a 15-point Safety Assessment for the safe design, development, testing and deployment of automated vehicles; the Model State Policy delineates Federal and State responsibilities for regulation of highly automated vehicles and suggests recommended policy areas for states to consider with a goal of generating a consistent national framework of laws to govern self-driving vehicles; NHTSA’s Current Regulatory Tools outlines the existing regulatory tools that can be used to ensure the safe development of new technologies; and Modern Regulatory Tools identifies new regulatory tools and statutory authorities that policymakers may consider in the future to aid the safe and efficient deployment of new lifesaving technologies. The policy primarily focuses on highly automated vehicles, or those in which the vehicle can take full control of the driving task in at least some circumstances. Portions of the policy also apply to lower levels of automation, including some of the driver-assistance systems already being deployed by automakers today.

In contrast to the traditional U.S. auto regulation approach of reactive, post-sale enforcement of safety standards, the Federal Automated Vehicle Policy takes a proactive stance. Current Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards do not directly address automated vehicle technologies, and since those standards can take many years to develop, the new automated vehicle policy is designed to ensure that DOT and auto manufacturers work together to address safety on the front end of development so that new, potentially lifesaving technologies can be implemented safely and quickly.

Simultaneously with this policy, NHTSA is releasing a final enforcement guidance bulletin clarifying how its recall authority will apply to automated vehicle technologies. In particular, it emphasizes that semi-autonomous driving systems 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.

MainStory: TopStory MotorVehiclesNews

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