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Government Introduces New Self-Driving Car Safety Guidelines

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The federal government is taking an unprecedented step today, introducing a new set of safety guidelines for autonomous vehicles that seeks to “harness the benefits of transformative technology by providing a framework for how to do it safely,” according to US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

The new policy has been published online at www.transportation.gov/AV, and for the next 60 days, the Department of Transportation (DOT) will be soliciting comments from members of the public, reports ConsumerAffairs. The DOT will update the self-driving car safety policy annually, partly guided by public feedback.

“Public input has been essential to getting this right,” says Mr. Foxx. “There has been a strong call from state and local governments, industry, safety experts, mobility advocates, and average Americans to establish a clear policy for the deployment of automated vehicles on our roads. There are huge upsides and significant challenges that come with automated vehicle technology, and we will continue the conversation with the pubic over the coming months and years as this technology develops.”

A Major Shift

ConsumerAffairs called the release of the new self-driving car guidelines “a significant shift” in the space, which had previously been “more of a laissez-faire approach” where companies from Tesla Motors, to Ford, to Uber could effectively put any self-driving car on the road with a licensed driver aboard so long as state policy allowed for it. Now, the DOT may even ask Congress to pass legislation requiring that automakers seek NHTSA approval for each new autonomous vehicle before it’s ever released – a step not required of conventional vehicles.

Some say that the new federal guidelines are long overdue, but express concern that they might fall short of the rigor needed in the self-driving car space. “We are pleased that DOT is planning to address these issues and seeking public comment for this new system of transportation but it must not shy away from assuring public safety with minimum federal vehicle safety standards,” says former NHTSA Administrator Joan Claybrook. “It should not rely instead on mere guidance, including for the initial elements of automatic vehicle operation such as Automatic Emergency Brakes that currently is only guided with a useless industry voluntary standard.”

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Aaron Brzozowski is a writer and motoring enthusiast from Detroit with an affinity for '80s German steel. He is not active on the Twitter these days, but you may send him a courier pigeon.

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