National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) administrator Mark Rosekind announced this week that in light of the fact that the development of autonomous vehicles has grown more pervasive and that such vehicles are now being tested and in some cases employed on national roadways, the need for the government to work as fast as possible to develop guidelines for the new technology has arrived.
NHTSA intends to issue guidelines, which will be drafted in a matter of months and which will be intended to help set standards for those automakers that are rapidly developing and deploying new technology. Rosekind said NHTSA is crafting the guidelines now rather than adopting regulations that could take years for approval, taking the position that it is better to work with the auto industry now through guidelines rather than going through the lengthy process of crafting regulations after the fact.
“When the safety act was written, (Congress) just had no idea of the kind of technology we have today and how fast it is changing,” Rosekind said.
The guidelines will cover several areas:
- Guidance on performance standards;
- Policy guidelines for states so that development can be uniform; and
- An explanation of the new tools and authority that NHTSA would like to use to govern self-driving vehicles.
Rosekind said the agency wants to issue the guidelines by the end of the summer.
“There is so much excitement about this area. This is the newest, greatest potential we have for reducing traffic fatalities,” Rosekind said. “We are watching it being created in front of us. Six months ago, the classic question, which is always asked, was ‘when are they going to get here?’ They are already here. The question is how can it be deployed safely.”