Feds Update Self-Driving Systems Guidance

Self-driving prototype

CARS.COM — At an event today at the University of Michigan's Mcity, a proving ground for connected and self-driving cars, U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao announced new Department of Transportation guidance for automated driving systems.

Related: Feds Move to Oversee, Foster Autonomous Cars

The guidance, titled Automated Driving Systems (ADS): A Vision for Safety 2.0, replaces earlier automated vehicle guidance from a year ago. According to Chao, the new guidance has been clarified and aligned with self-driving legislation currently in Congress; last week, the U.S. House of Representatives approved legislation that gives federal officials authority to regulate self-driving cars.

Many new cars already offer varying degrees of driver assist systems, including the ability to accelerate or steer on the highway. With these systems, the driver must be ready to take over, but the new DOT guidance is focused on more sophisticated systems that require less or no driver involvement.

The announcement comes on the same day the National Transportation Safety Board released its findings on a high-profile crash involving a Tesla Model S and a tractor-trailer. The NTSB placed part of the blame on driver inattention due to an overreliance on the Tesla's Autopilot system.

The updated DOT automated driving systems guidance largely mirrors the previous one, with an emphasis on:

  • System safety
  • Defining where the self-driving system can be used
  • How a self-driving vehicle should react to various driving situations
  • Addressing instances of system failure or driver inattentiveness
  • System validation
  • Alerting and communicating with the driver
  • Security issues
  • Crashworthiness of vehicles with self-driving technology
  • Data recording, particularly during a crash, to improve these systems
  • Consumer education and training
  • Observance of various local, state and federal laws

"The new guidance supports further development of this important new technology, which has the potential to change the way we travel and how we deliver goods and services," Chao said in a statement. "The safe deployment of automated vehicle technologies means we can look forward to a future with fewer traffic fatalities and increased mobility for all Americans."

Chao also said the guidance will be updated going forward, with the next version expected in 2018.

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