U.S. Issues Guidelines on Self-Driving Cars

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The White House issued new voluntary guidelines for self-driving cars today, setting the scene for the acceleration of autonomous technologies.

With the revised guidelines, the U.S. eliminates the need for automakers to receive regulatory approval before deploying autonomous features. States are told to focus on licensing, registering, and insuring autonomous cars while the federal government handles issues related to safety and performance.

The guidance also revises “unnecessary” design elements from the safety self-assessment for autonomous cars. It focuses on Level 3-5 self-driving vehicles, which range from semi-autonomous to fully autonomous.

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao defended the administration’s choice to issue voluntary guidelines rather than hard-and-fast laws. She said it was the right approach for technology that is constantly changing, and regulators will be able to bar autonomous vehicles if they prove unsafe in the future.

“This advanced, updated guidance clarifies and incorporates many of the concerns we subsequently heard from stakeholders and users,” Chao said at a press briefing, reports Automotive News. “As the technology advances, and the department gathers new and more information, we will continue to refine and update this document.”

The move is considered a win for automakers and manufacturers of autonomous technologies who want self-driving cars regulated at a federal level rather than having to deal with different requirements in different states.

Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives signed off on a proposal to prevent states from banning autonomous cars. Automakers can receive exemptions to test autonomous cars without meeting current auto safety standards in the first year, although manufacturers would be required to demonstrate certain safety capabilities. The measure now goes to the Senate.

U.S. regulators are gearing up to issue an even newer set of guidelines surrounding autonomous cars, so we could see more changes soon. Now the question is how quickly will consumers accept these vehicles.

Source: Automotive News (Subscription required), Reuters (1,2), NHTSA

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