USDOT commits to accelerating autonomous vehicle safety innovations

Updated Jan 19, 2016
This Lexus RX450h is just one of the car’s in Google’s fleet of autonomous test vehicles.This Lexus RX450h is just one of the car’s in Google’s fleet of autonomous test vehicles.

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx recently outlined at the North American International Auto Show several initiatives set for 2016 to remove “potential roadblocks” to integrating technology to improve vehicle safety, mobility and sustainability.

Foxx also announced President Obama’s fiscal year 2017 budget proposal would include roughly $4 billion for connected vehicle system pilot programs over a 10-year period.

“We are on the cusp of a new era in automotive technology with enormous potential to save lives, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and transform mobility for the American people,” Foxx says. “Today’s actions and those we will pursue in the coming months will provide the foundation and the path forward for manufacturers, state officials and consumers to use new technologies and achieve their full safety potential.”

Foxx outlined these five milestones the agency is committed to for this year:

  • Within six months, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) will work with industry and other stakeholders to develop guidance on the safe deployment and operation of autonomous vehicles, providing a common understanding of the performance characteristics necessary for fully autonomous vehicles and the testing and analysis methods needed to assess them.
  • Within six months, NHTSA will work with state partners, the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, and other stakeholders to develop a model state policy on automated vehicles that offers a path to consistent national policy.
  • Foxx encouraged manufacturers to submit rule interpretation requests where appropriate to help enable technology innovation.  For example, NHTSA responded to an interpretation request from BMW confirming that the company’s remote self-parking system meets federal safety standards.
  • When interpretation authority is not sufficient, Foxx further encouraged manufacturers to submit requests for use of the agency’s exemption authority to allow the deployment of fully autonomous vehicles.  Exemption authority allows NHTSA to enable the deployment of up to 2,500 vehicles for up to two years if the agency determines that an exemption would ease development of new safety features.
  • USDOT and NHTSA will develop the new tools necessary for this new era of vehicle safety and mobility, and will consider seeking new authorities when they are necessary to ensure that fully autonomous vehicles, including those designed without a human driver in mind, are deployable in large numbers when they are demonstrated to provide an equivalent or higher level of safety than is now available.

“NHTSA is using all of its available tools to accelerate the deployment of technologies that can eliminate 94 percent of fatal crashes involving human error,” NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind says. “We will work with state partners toward creating a consistent national policy on these innovations, provide options now and into the future for manufacturers seeking to deploy autonomous vehicles, and keep our safety mission paramount at every stage.”