Fully autonomous cars are still in testing, but our cars already have numerous autonomous features. Everything from lane keep assist to adaptive cruise control to automatic emergency braking are precursors to future cars that will do everything without human intervention. The technology is coming and so are the regulations. U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao announced she’s giving current autonomous vehicle guidance a closer look.
Those guidelines were issued under the Obama administration last September with requirements that set automakers on edge. They include the voluntary submission of a 15-point assessment of all self-driving systems. Guidelines also urge states to defer to the federal government to enact appropriate self-driving vehicle regulations.
Automakers are none too keen on handing over their data to the government. They claim it will delay testing and fear that states could make these voluntary guidelines mandatory. They’ve since called on both the Trump administration and Congress to make changes that will speed rather than slow the process of getting self-driving cars on the road.
Chao told the National Governors Association, “This administration is evaluating this guidance and will consult with you and other stakeholders as we update it and amend it, to ensure that it strikes the right balance.”
The push to get this technology on the roads is largely about safety. There were 35,092 deaths due to traffic crashes in 2015, which is an increase of 7 percent. It’s also the highest full-year increase since 1966. Things don’t look better for 2016 with an 8 percent increase over the first nine months of the year.
Chao noted that 94 percent of crashes were due to human error. Getting rid of the human factor will save lives. The challenge is in finding a balance between implementing this technology as soon as possible and ensuring that it’s safe.
Studies show that autonomous technology does save lives. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) figures 1,705 people were killed and 547,000 were injured by rear end crashes in the U.S, in 2012. They estimate 87 percent of those deaths and injuries could have been prevented by crash avoidance technology.
As automakers strive to incorporate more self-driving technologies into vehicles, the government is left playing catch up. The process of creating new laws and official guidelines is a lengthy one that moves far more slowly than the pace of technology. Chao’s remarks are only the first step in a long process. self-driving vehicle regulations