US government releases driverless cars policy
The US government has released its official verdict on autonomous cars, claimed to be rooted in the US Department of Transportation’s view that such ventures bring “enormous potential benefits” for safety and mobility.
Key to the policy is a 15-point safety assessment for manufacturers on how to achieve a ‘robust’ design for highly automated vehicles (HAVs). Different approaches are allowed so long as the main criteria are met.
Among the more interesting issues outlined in the safety assessment include data recording and sharing – for building knowledge and potential crash reconstruction – as well as a human-machine interface and post-crash behaviour; how HAVs should respond and how automation functions can be restored.
Perhaps the most interesting relates to ‘ethical considerations’, summed up as ‘how vehicles are programmes to address conflict dilemmas on the road’. The concept has been explored elsewhere by the Moral Machine, a platform developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) which gains knowledge based on responses to tangled ethical headscratchers on driverless cars, as well as allowing users to submit their own queries.
Not surprisingly, the bricks and mortar considerations are all in the list as well, including registration and certification, privacy and system safety, and compliance with federal, state and local laws.
The policy also outlines current and modern regulatory tools, as well as a model state policy, intended for US states who wish to regulate testing and deployment of autonomous vehicles.
In a fact sheet issued by the White House, the administration noted that the policy build on seven years of efforts. According to the press materials: “If tested and deployed safely, automated vehicles – vehicles that can take over some or all of the driving task – could ultimately provide transformative benefits in areas such as… safety, mobility, productivity, and sustainability.”
As reported by the New York Times among others, Jeffrey Zients, director of the National Economic Council, said: “We envision in the future, you can take your hands off the wheel, and your commute becomes restful or productive instead of frustrating and exhausting.” The latter may not be entirely straightforward to achieve, however. According to a recent report (PDF) from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, citing statistics from 2015, up to 10% of US adults riding in fully self-driving vehicles would either ‘often’, ‘usually’, or ‘always’ experience some level of motion sickness.
You can read the full White House fact sheet here.