DOT Issues Self-Driving Car Road Map

Automated vehicles and V2V communications systems are on the move.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Department of Transportation have issued new safety guidelines for Automated Driving Systems (ADS) that pave the way for testing and deployment of the systems, which will work hand in driving glove with broadband-based vehicle-to-vehicle communications given the need for the exchange of data.

The guidelines come less than a week after the House passed the SELF DRIVE Act. The Act, which passed unanimously, also takes a crack at providing a lane to deployment, for self-driving cars. It sets up a framework for NHTSA to adapt federal standards to the development, testing and deployment of self-driving cars, and clarifies the roles of states and localities.

“The safe deployment of automated vehicle technologies means we can look forward to a future with fewer traffic fatalities and increased mobility for all Americans," said DOT Secretary Elaine Chao.

The guidelines, christened A Vision for Safety 2.0, paves the way for testing and deployment of ADS and, like the House bill, attempts to clarify the roles of states and the federal government.

House Energy & Commerce Committee leaders were praising DOT for following their lead.

“The House took strong, bipartisan action to pass the SELF DRIVE Act and pave the way for self-driving cars and advanced collision avoidance technologies," said E&C Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) and Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection Subcommittee Chairman Bob Latta (R-Ohio). "We are pleased that Secretary Chao shares our commitment to safety, innovation, and ensuring America is a leader in this growing industry. We urge the Senate to act so we can quickly get self-driving vehicle legislation to the president’s desk and signed into law."

“Self-driving technology is advancing quickly, and Intel is playing a leading role," said Doug Davis, senior VP and general manager of the company's automated driving group. "To get ready for our autonomous future, we need to prepare our roads, cities, towns, and, more importantly, tomorrow's passengers. A policy framework that prioritizes safety, innovation and U.S. leadership will play a critical role. To this end, I applaud the leadership of Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao for her focused work to revise the nation’s Automated Vehicle Guidelines for the safe testing and deployment of self-driving vehicles. I also commend the recent passage of the SELF DRIVE Act in the U.S. House of Representatives. Such focus on self-driving vehicle policy drives us closer to Intel’s vision for autonomous transportation..."

But as with the House bill, not everyone was cheering the start of the race to automated vehicles.

“This isn’t a vision for safety,” said Consumer Watchdog privacy project director John M. Simpson. “It’s a roadmap that allows manufacturers to do whatever they want, wherever and whenever they want, turning our roads into private laboratories for robot cars with no regard for our safety." The group raised similar concerns about the SELF DRIVE Act.

The SELF DRIVE Act also makes clear that cybersecurity needs to be an internal component of the new automated cars.

DOT (of which NHTSA is a part), issued a notice of proposed rulemaking mandating V2V communications (using dedicated short-range communications, or DSRC) on all passenger cars and trucks, which it said would prevent hundreds of thousands of crashes. It would also “require that all V2V devices must ‘speak the same language’ through a standard technology,” which drew some pushback from NCTA: The Internet & Television Association, which said the proposal on V2V communications in the upper 5 GHz band, particularly a mandate on safety technology, was misguided and threatened the future of wireless communications.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.