US Government publishes Automated Vehicles Policy


On September 20 2016, the United States Department of Transportation (DOP) published its Federal Automated Vehicles Policy, making the US the first country to propose automated driving legislation.


In the introductory message, US Secretary for Transportation Anthony Fox explains that three main drivers prompted this policy:


  • the rise of new technology
  • potential to achieve significant improvements in safety
  • the need to establish a foundation and framework for future automated driving legislation


Particular emphasis is placed on the last point, with Mr Fox highlighting the need to establish a framework for future discussion with not only industry leaders, experts and political stakeholders, but also with the public and safety advocates.


In addition, safety is identified as they key motivator behind the department’s interest in automated driving legislation, seeing the technology as a unique opportunity to drastically improve road safety. The Policy also discussed the potential of vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure sensor technology to improve system performance of vehicles and to improve safety.


According to the DOT, the Policy “sets out an ambitious approach to accelerate the highly automated vehicle (HAV) revolution”, supported by a regulatory framework with the necessary expertise, knowledge and know-how.


The Policy is separated into four sections regarding facilitation and deployment, including:


  • Vehicle Performance Guidance for Automated Vehicles: This includes a 15 point safety assessment automakers are requested to sign which certifies the vehicles are ready for public roads.
  • Model State Policy: This clarifies what the Federal government expects for testing and operating autonomous vehicles and recommends areas where states can set their own policies.
  • NHTSA’s Current Regulatory Tools: This outlines what the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) can do as it interprets and enforces rules to ensure self-driving vehicles are safe.
  • New Tools and Authorities: NHTSA could consider in the future: This includes proposals open for public comment, such as whether or not fully-autonomous vehicles should be required to have a steering wheel.


To aid in the monitoring of automated vehicles, the NHTSA will request that manufacturers and other entities voluntarily provide reports regarding how the Guidance has been followed. This reporting process may be refined and made mandatory through a future rulemaking. It is expected that this would require entities to submit a Safety Assessment to NHTSA’s Office of the Chief Counsel for each automated driving system, outlining how they are meeting this Guidance at the time they intend their product to be ready for use (testing or deployment) on public roads. This Safety Assessment would assist NHTSA, and the public, in evaluating how safety is being addressed by manufacturers and other entities developing and testing HAV systems.


The 15 point safety assessment includes the following:

  • Data Recording and Sharing
  • Privacy • System Safety
  • Vehicle Cybersecurity
  • Human Machine Interface
  • Crashworthiness
  • Consumer Education and Training
  • Registration and Certification
  • Post-Crash Behavior
  • Federal, State and Local Laws
  • Ethical Considerations
  • Operational Design Domain
  • Object and Event Detection and Response
  • Fall Back (Minimal Risk Condition)
  • Validation Methods


To read the Policy in full, please click here.



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