How soon will we have access to vehicles that don't require human control? Are driverless cars just around the corner? What will our travel be like if we're spending a lot less time behind the wheel? What technology actually makes autonomous driving possible? What is autonomous driving, anyway, and what do the different levels entail?
U.S. vehicle safety regulators have said the artificial intelligence system piloting a self-driving Google car could be considered the driver under federal law, a major step toward ultimately winning approval for autonomous vehicles on the roads. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration told Google, a unit of Alphabet Inc, of its decision in a previously unreported Feb. 4 letter to the company posted on the agency's website this week. Google's self-driving car unit on Nov. 12 submitted a proposed design for a self-driving car that has'no need for a human driver,' the letter to Google from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Chief Counsel Paul Hemmersbaugh said. At a Senate hearing, representatives of General Motors and Delphi touted numerous safety and environmental benefits of autonomous vehicles. In January, the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said it may waive some vehicle safety rules to allow more driverless cars to operate on US roads.
The NHTSA has asked for feedback on the state of autonomous vehicles and how current US regulations can be refined to promote research and deployment. The US National Highway Traffic-Safety Administration (NHTSA) released a report on potential rule changes on Friday, which states the agency is looking for comments "to identify any unnecessary regulatory barriers" to the deployment of autonomous vehicles on US roads. NHTSA said that input relating to regulatory barriers is key, as well as any thoughts relating to hurdles companies face when attempting to test their self-driving vehicles. Compliance problems are a serious problem for vendors researching and developing self-driving car technologies. In particular, the agency recognizes that vehicle designs "that are not equipped with controls for a human driver" are a stumbling block, such as a lack of a steering wheel, brakes, or accelerator pedals.
For California state officials, the new federal guidelines on testing and deployment of driverless cars come as a bit of a relief. Until this week, the absence of U.S. government guidance had left the state Department of Motor Vehicles -- generally in charge of registering vehicles and issuing drivers' licenses -- to take the lead role in drafting regulations to ensure the safety of self-driving vehicles. Though the federal guidelines issued Tuesday are short on specifics, the Department of Transportation will take responsibility for regulating the driving hardware and software, and it has devised a model state policy that probably will take the pressure off individual state agencies. That policy, issued jointly by the Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, could result in changes to current California draft regulations on autonomous vehicles. "You can imagine how the California DMV would be struggling, with no technological background or engineers at their disposal, trying to figure out whether a particular autonomous vehicle is or is not safe enough to be deployed," said Robert Peterson, a law professor at Santa Clara University.
ANN ARBOR, MICHIGAN – The Trump administration on Tuesday unveiled updated safety guidelines for self-driving cars aimed at clearing barriers for automakers and tech companies wanting to get test vehicles on the road. The new voluntary guidelines announced by U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao update policies issued last fall by the Obama administration, which were also largely voluntary. Chao emphasized that the guidelines aren't meant to force automakers to use certain technology or meet stringent requirements. Instead, they're designed to clarify what vehicle developers and states should consider as more test cars reach public roads. "We want to make sure those who are involved understand how important safety is," Chao said during a visit to an autonomous vehicle testing facility at the University of Michigan.