DOT issues ‘A Vision for Safety 2.0’ guidance for automated vehicles

 

The U.S. Department of Transportation has issued new, updated voluntary guidance for automated vehicles, building on earlier guidance released last September under the previous administration.
 
The new guidance, named A Vision for Safety: 2.0, loosens some of the requirements from the earlier one, according to a summary sheet released by the Department of Transportation.
 
“The new guidance supports further development of this important new technology, which has the potential to change the way we travel and how we deliver goods and services,” Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said in a statement. “The safe deployment of automated vehicle technologies means we can look forward to a future with fewer traffic fatalities and increased mobility for all Americans.”
 
The new vision focuses on the highest levels of automation, 3-5, as defined by SAE International. It also “clarifies the guidance process and that entities do not need to wait to test or deploy their ADSs [automated driving systems],” DOT says.

“The federal government wants to ensure it does not impede progress with unnecessary or unintended barriers to innovation. Safety remains the number one priority for U.S. DOT and is the specific focus of NHTSA,” the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, the document says.
 
As with the previous guidance, reporting on tested systems would be voluntary, although DOT encourages companies testing automated technology to “publicly disclose Voluntary Safety Self-Assessments of their systems in order to demonstrate their varied approaches to achieving safety.”
 
However, the guidance also notes that companies are not required to do so, “nor is there any mechanism to compel entities to do so.”
 
The guidance calls for automakers and other entities to focus on 12 areas related to safety:

  • System safety, or vehicles free of “unreasonable” safety risks
  • Operational design domain, or the conditions or geographic areas where the vehicles can operate (can they drive in rain, or on gravel roads?)
  • Object and event detection: Testing entities should have a documented process for assessing and testing their vehicles’ ability to avoid pedestrians, bicyclists, animals and other potential road hazards
  • Fallback to “minimal risk condition,” or, if a vehicle malfunctions, how quickly can it be brought to a state where it can’t do any harm?
  • Validation methods: Testers should develop validation methods to mitigate the safety risks of their systems
  • Human-machine interface: How do the vehicles communicate to their passengers, especially the ones that don’t have traditional controls?
  • Cybersecurity: Companies testing systems should incorporate best practices and design principles from NHTSA, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, SAE International and others to keep their vehicles from being hacked
  • Crashworthiness: What happens when non-automated vehicles run into automated vehicles, and how will the AV occupants be protected?
  • Post-crash behavior: How can AVs be made safer after an accident, such as by shutting down a fuel pump or moving the vehicle out of the roadway?
  • Data recording: Learning from crash data will be critical to the development of safe vehicles. NHTSA is working with SAE International to establish uniform data elements for crash reconstruction
  • Consumer education and training: Vehicle testers and dealers need to be able to accurately describe how their vehicles work.
  • Federal, state and local laws

 
The guidance urges that states not codify the guidance into state laws, as “allowing NHTSA alone to regulate the safety design and performance aspects of ADS (automated driving systems) technology will help avoid conflicting federal and state laws and regulations that could impede deployment,” the guidance document says.

As was mentioned in the earlier document, NHTSA is charged with setting and enforcing Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, and investigating and managing any vehicle recalls; states are charged with licensing human drivers, registering vehicles, enacting and enforcing traffic laws, regulating insurance and liability and conducting safety inspections, if they choose to.

The guidance says states should create a “technology neutral” environment for automated vehicles and review traffic laws and regulations that could hinder their operation.
 As was the case with the earlier guidance, this isn’t expected to be the final version, and DOT and NHTSA are already planning for A Vision for Safety 3.0.

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