The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has proposed a 10 year, nearly $4 billion investment into the development and adoption of safe self-driving vehicles through real-world pilot projects.
The proposal is part of President Obama’s latest State of the Union address where he expressed the need to invest in a 21st century transportation system. U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx made the announcement at the recent North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit saying transformational automotive technology can significantly improve vehicle safety, mobility and sustainability.
“We are on the cusp of a new era in automotive technology with enormous potential to save lives, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and transform mobility for the American people,” Foxx says. “Today’s actions and those we will pursue in the coming months will provide the foundation and the path forward for manufacturers, state officials, and consumers to use new technologies and achieve their full safety potential.”
Under the proposal, pilot programs would be used to test connected vehicle systems in designated regions throughout the country and work with automotive leaders to create a common multistate framework for connected and autonomous vehicles.
In addition, DOT has unveiled policy guidance that updates the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) 2013 preliminary policy statement on autonomous vehicles. The new guidance allows for the widespread deployment of fully autonomous vehicles. The NHTSA says that by using the deployment of new technologies it is possible to eliminate 94% of fatal crashes that involve human error.
Under the proposal, DOT hopes to accomplish in 2016:
- In six months, the NHTSA will work with the automotive industry to develop guidance on the safe deployment and operation of autonomous vehicles with a common understanding of the performance characteristics necessary for fully autonomous vehicles and the testing and analysis needed to assess them.
- In six months, the NHTSA will work with state partners to develop model state policy on automated vehicles that offers a path to consistent national policy.
- Encourage manufacturers to submit rule interpretation requests to help enable technology innovation.
- When the interpretation authority is not sufficient, encourage manufacturers to submit requests for use of the agency’s exemption authority to allow the deployment of fully autonomous vehicles.
- Develop new tools necessary for this new era of vehicle safety and mobility and for the deployment of vehicles without a human driver in mind still conform to an equivalent or higher level of safety than there is now.
So far, automakers and industry organizations have come out in favor of the proposal. General Motors says in a statement that it welcomed the opportunity to work with the government and industry on a “collaborative approach with automakers to further enhance vehicle safety.”
The Association of Global Automakers, an industry organization representing international motor vehicle OEMs, equipment suppliers and other trade associations, applauded the DOT proposal saying the technology “promises to bring significant benefits for improving personal mobility, vehicle safety, fuel efficiency, emissions and highway congestion.”
The association went on to say automated vehicles will have a profound impact on the way the technology is tested and deployed not just at the state level but nationwide. “It is important that any policy is consistent and balanced so it not only reflects the current state of technology, but also is flexible enough to adapt as our industry continues to innovate,” the Association of Global Automakers says.