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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released Tuesday new guidelines that seemingly aim to encourage the development of autonomous vehicle systems.
The guidance eliminates a federal mandate requiring carmakers testing autonomous systems to receive government approval before cars hit the road. The process is now voluntary, as the Department acknowledges that the advancement of self-driving technology will likely save lives.
The report notes that 94% of fatal crashes are the result of human error, and that autonomous drive systems could prevent tens of thousands of fatal accidents and save hundreds of billions of dollars of lost economic activity.
NHTSA recommends that state governments establish a licensing system for both vehicle and software manufacturers to test autonomous drive systems. NHTSA also said it will gladly work with state officials who want to be thoughtful about testing on their roadways.
Other recommendations included diligence regarding cybersecurity and preventing hacking of drive systems; establishing strong data collection capabilities to inform better drive systems and regulations; and close study of the interaction between the vehicle and the driver.
“The Federal Government wants to ensure it does not impede progress with unnecessary or unintended barriers to innovation,” the report says. “Safety remains the number one priority for U.S. DOT and is the specific focus of NHTSA.”
Still, safety advocates including Consumer Reports say more forceful oversight is required, and not just on a voluntary basis.
Jake Fisher, director of auto testing at Consumer Reports, was quoted by the publication saying real-world testing of self-driving vehicles should be done very cautiously.
“Even the most advanced semi-autonomous systems on the market have a long way to go before drivers can begin to relinquish control,” he said.
You can see the full NHTSA report here.