DOT Airs Crash, Privacy Standards in Autonomous-Car Guide

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By Stephanie Beasley

Sept. 19 — The Obama administration is asking autonomous-vehicle manufacturers to meet the criteria of a new safety and testing plan, including installing cybersecurity and crash protections, before introducing new autonomous designs to the market.

The White House released an overview of the Transportation Department's new guidance for automated vehicles late Sept. 19. Among other things, the guidance will call for auto manufacturers to keep records indicating they have met the objectives of a 15-point safety assessment that includes detailing where and how the car is expected to operate; what information the vehicle will be recording and sharing; what cyberprotections will be in place to help prevent hacking; and the extent to which occupants will be protected should the car crash.

The full guidance is expected to be released Sept. 20 along with a model policy that the administration said will draw clear distinctions between the state and federal role in regulating autonomous vehicles.

The Association of Global Automakers released a statement welcoming the new guidance and model policy.

“A consistent national approach for this burgeoning technology is critically important as automated vehicles will advance vehicle safety, mobility and sustainability,” said the group, which represents car manufacturers such as Toyota and Nissan. It also urged DOT to “move quickly to issue its proposed rule for vehicle-to-vehicle communication, which is an important building block toward automated vehicles.”

State-Federal Division

States have authority over licensing, traffic laws and enforcement rules as well as insurance regulations that will affect the operation and testing of autonomous vehicles across the country. A small number of states like California and Florida have already enacted legislation for autonomous-vehicle testing and operation, and some industry lobby groups have said they worry there could soon be a patchwork of disparate state laws.

“Global Automakers welcomes the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) leadership with the release of its automated vehicle guidance and model policy,” John Bozzella, Global Automakers president and CEO, said. “A consistent national approach for this burgeoning technology is critically important as automated vehicles will advance vehicle safety, mobility and sustainability.”

The model policy to be released by the Transportation Department will encourage states to establish a “consistent national framework of laws and policy,” according to the White House overview. Some areas the model policy is expected to touch on are: the use of public roads for autonomous vehicle testing, jurisdictional permission to test, law enforcement considerations, and liability and insurance.

Neither the industry guidance nor the model state policy are legally binding, meaning it will be left to manufacturers and state policy makers to decide whether to follow the recommendations.

However, the administration is seeking public feedback on whether the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) should be granted new authorities that would allow it to require pre-approval of automated vehicle technology before the cars are allowed on public roads and create a new federal safety standard for “revolutionary” vehicle design changes like removing a steering wheel or gas pedal.

To contact the reporter on this story: Stephanie Beasley in Washington

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Heather Rothman at

For More Information

Further details about the autonomous car guidelines are available here: .

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