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U.S. DOT Issues Policy on Autonomous Cars

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Sept. 20, 2016—The U.S. Department of Transportation issued its guidance for the future development and implementation of autonomous cars on Monday. 

The guidelines, dubbed the Federal Automated Vehicles Policy, aim to influence the development of this technology to ensure vehicle safety from OEMs in all 50 states. 

The DOT emphasized the policy—which is broken up into four sections, including Vehicle Performance Guidance for Automated Vehicles, Model State Policy, NHTSA’s Current Regulatory Tools, and Modern Regulatory Tools—is guidance rather than a final rule. The policy covers topics like crashworthiness, post-crash behavior, validation methods and privacy.

The guidelines provides clear boundaries between federal and state responsibilities, freeing up states to create their own policies. The federal government will cover safety standards, compliance, recalls and public education, and states will focus on testing permissions, law and regulation enforcement and licensing.

The government has asked automakers to sign and submit when an autonomous car is believed to be ready for public roads. 

“As the digital era increasingly reaches deeper into transportation, our task at the U.S. Department of Transportation is not only to keep pace, but to ensure public safety while establishing a strong foundation such that the rules of the road can be known, understood, and responded to by industry and the public,” the U.S. DOT said in the statement. “The self-driving car raises more possibilities and more questions than perhaps any other transportation innovation under present discussion.”

“As the Department charged with protecting the traveling public, we recognize three realities that necessitate this guidance,” the statement said. “First, the rise of new technology is inevitable. Second, we will achieve more significant safety improvements by establishing an approach that translates our knowledge and aspirations into early guidance. Third, as this area evolves, the “unknowns” of today will become “knowns” tomorrow. We do not intend to write the final word on highly automated vehicles here. Rather, we intend to establish a foundation and a framework upon which future Agency action will occur.”

Click here to read the full policy. 

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