While the allure of new technology has been enough to encourage several companies to pursue autonomous vehicles, there has been a lack of action on behalf of safety regulators to address the issue. The head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is now promising action within the next six months. Mark Rosekind has promised to deliver federal guidelines designed to ensure that autonomous vehicle technology is safe and uniform across the various states.
Car and truck accidents are generally the result of careless driving. Drunk drivers, distracted drivers, aggressive drivers and incompetent drivers are responsible for almost every accident on American roads. Autonomous vehicles are potentially the only realistic hope of sharply reducing car accident deaths and injuries. Without uniform guidelines, however, automakers are unlikely to invest substantial resources to help the technology reach its potential. A vehicle that is legal in 10 states is unlikely to be mass produced. Federal guidelines will allow auto makers to invest in vehicles that can be sold throughout the country.
The NHTSA is not known for quick turnarounds. Regardless of its ability to meet the six month deadline, it is a good sign that the agency is showing urgency in the matter. While it may be many years before autonomous vehicles become the norm, if indeed they ever do, these cars are being tested now. The technology is available, if not currently commercially viable on the large scale. The NHTSA has the chance to create guidelines that place an emphasis on safety and force automakers to put the lives of the driving public first.
Source: Automobile, “NHTSA Chief Promises Autonomy Rules In Six Months,” by Todd Lassa, 16 March 2016