US Government commits to enabling vehicle autonomy

| Transport

The Department of Transportation has committed to working with the NHTSA on developing guidance and tools that smooth the way to autonomous vehicle development.

In his last State of the Union address, President Obama made known his intent to invest in a 21st century transport system with the country’s transport secretary, Anthony Foxx revealing part of the president’s proposal in the form of a 10-year investment worth nearly $4 billion to accelerate the development and adoption of safe vehicle automation through real-world pilot projects.

The US DoT is also removing what it refers to as potential roadblocks to the integration of innovative, transformational automotive technology that can significantly improve safety, mobility, and sustainability.

The politician said, “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.”

If accepted, the President’s budget proposal for 2017 would provide nearly $4 billion over 10 years for pilot programmes to test connected vehicle systems in designated corridors throughout the country and work to ensure a common multistate framework for connected and autonomous vehicles.

New guidance was also released that updates the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) 2013 preliminary policy statement on autonomous vehicles.  The new guidance reflects the reality that the widespread deployment of fully autonomous vehicles is now feasible.

“NHTSA is using all of its available tools to accelerate the deployment of technologies that can eliminate 94%     of fatal crashes involving human error,” commented NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind.  “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.”

Five major milestones form part of the DoT commitment for 2016 as follow:

* The NHTSA will develop guidance on testing and analysis of autonomous vehicles within the first 6 months.
* A model state policy on automated vehicles will be developed within 6 months for use in developing a national policy.
* Vehicle Manufacturers to be encouraged to make rule interpretation requests.
* Vehicle manufacturers to be able to use exemption authorites where appropriate to conduct limited testing for autonomy.
* To develop new tools in conjunction with the NHTSA to enable the development and deployment of autonomous vehicles.

In 2015, the DoT made headway in the fielf of transport in smart city environments with its work on accelerating efforts to incorporate vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication technology in new equipment.

In response to the latest announcement from the Department for Transportation, the US Consumer Technology Association (CTA) regards the move to accelerate autonomous vehicle development and the NHTSA involvement in the formation of a consistent national policy as being a critical step in clearing obstacles in the road towards autonomy.

Commenting on the Transportation Secretary’s address at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit, CTA’s CEO, Gary Shapiro said, “Driverless cars will soon evolve from science fiction to reality, just as driver assistance systems did a few years ago. Self-driving technologies will transform the future of our mobility by removing human error to improve road safety, decrease the number of accidents and provide greater flexibility to consumers.”

Expanding on the need to address certain issues in order to be able to further develop autonomy, Shapiro continued, “We need to establish standards for highway signs and lights, devise new approaches to regulating spectrum, liability, insurance and safety and consider revised highway rules, parking structures and car-ownership paradigms.”

CTA believes that consistent collaboration between the industry and government provides the best answer to the challenges posed by introducing autonomy, not a top-down regulatory approach.

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