Federal Regulators Outline Roadmap for the Future of Autonomous Vehicles

October 13, 2016
Joshua Baca, Senior Vice President, Client Relations

A few weeks ago, DDC released the results of its public opinion survey regarding voters’ feelings about autonomous vehicles (AVs) and the race between technology companies and auto manufactures to be the first to market with this technology. The polling results provided a roadmap on the issues voters want to see addressed in the accompanying regulatory and legislative challenges that are likely to arise at the federal, state and local level.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) in partnership with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently released guidelines calling for blanket regulation with an emphasis on safety. The guidelines appear to be a move to position the federal government as a central force in the rollout of AVs .The policy package is grouped into four parts:

  • A 15-point safety assessment standard outlining clear expectations for manufacturers developing and deploying automated vehicle technologies.
  • Model state policy that delineates the federal and state roles for the regulation of autonomous vehicles.
  • Current regulatory tools to expedite the safe introduction of autonomous vehicles.
  • New tools the federal government may need as the technology evolves and is deployed more widely.

Anytime the federal government steps in and proposes sweeping regulation, there is bound to be concern. Both auto-manufacturers and technology companies are keeping a close eye on data-sharing requirements and the degree of confidential business information that could be available to the government under the proposed guidelines. But generally, the industry’s response has been positive, recognizing the government’s attempt to support innovation.

Having the rules come from DOT and NHSTA could increase overall consumer support and confidence for AVs, as our polling research shows that the NHSTA is the most trusted entity to speak out on the safety and impact of self-driving cars. The question still remains if the NHSTA guidelines will be enough to sway consumer safety over this issue that companies are investing billions in.

Even with federal regulations in the works, states are continuing to issue their own mandates, notably California Governor Jerry Brown signing a bill that permits AV testing without a human driver. Other industry news includes Uber announcing its plans to open a facility in Detroit, rumors that Apple plans to buy McLaren, and Amazon might be considering self-driving cars as a way to decrease their costs for shipping through UPS, Fed Ex and USPS.

There will be a 60-day public comment period, where all sides of the debate will have the opportunity to weigh-in. This will be the first critical test to see who is better organized to impact this debate politically and seek the upper hand with the general public.


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