NHTSA to release self-driving vehicle guidelines by end of summer


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NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind said Wednesday that early versions of autonomous vehicles have arrived, creating the need for the government to work as fast as possible to develop guidelines for the new technology.

The guidelines, which will be drafted in a matter of months, are intended to help set standards for automakers that are rapidly developing and deploying new technology. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration wants to craft the guidelines now rather than adopting regulations that could take years for approval.

Rosekind argues it's better to work with the auto industry now through guidelines rather than going through the lengthy process of crafting regulations.

"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," he said.

He said the guidelines will cover several areas:
  • Guidance on performance standards
  • Policy guidelines for states so that regulations that develop are consistent.
  • 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.

The NHTSA administrator believes that self-driving technology has tremendous potential to reduce traffic fatalities, which are largely caused by driver error.

"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 be created in front of us."

Because the technology is evolving fast, it's important to get guidelines in place now.

"Six months ago, the classic question, which is always asked, is ‘when are they going to get here?’ " Rosekind said. "They are already here. The question is how can it be deployed safely."