U.S. government regulators established policies earlier this week that will accelerate the automotive industry’s push toward the development and mass production of fully autonomous cars.
The new policies pertaining to the development, testing and use of autonomous cars have been implemented as guidelines, giving more wiggle room than official regulations, which are typically stringent and frequently enforced, the New York Times recently reported.
These policies have outlined some safety expectations and have laid the groundwork for the implementation of uniform rules for autonomous technology.
The measured approach to autonomous tech regulation signals to drivers that the U.S. government is not keen to take a less safe anything-goes position, while also indicating to manufacturers that the government will not heavily regulate the development and launch of self-driving cars.
“We left some areas intentionally vague because we wanted to outline the areas that need to be addressed and leave the rest to innovators,” said Bryan Thomas, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration spokesperson.
Key areas of the new guidelines focus on passenger privacy measures; digital security of driverless vehicles; how a car will communicate with other vehicles and how passengers will be able to communicate will fellow road-going passengers; and what types of fail-safes should be implemented in the event that the autonomous technology fails or puts human lives at risk.
The new guidelines are focused in four main areas: the creation of a safety standard for the design and development of autonomous vehicles; the creation of industry-wide, uniform policies applying to driverless cars; clarification of how current regulations should be applied to self-driving cars; and the development and implementation of new regulations on self-driving technology.
Given the increasingly strict safety regulations mandated for human-driven vehicles, the relative laxity of safety rules governing the development and implementation of driverless cars will no doubt strike some as surprising, especially in light of recent crashes and fatalities attributed to autonomous car technologies.