The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) unveiled its self-driving car guidelines on how to safely develop, test, and deploy autonomous vehicles in the future. The 116-page document, which you can read in its entirety below, includes a 15-point safety assessment that regulators will use to determine whether a self-driving car is safe enough to release to the public.
Google, Tesla and Uber have declined multiple requests from various media outlets to comment on the Vehicle Performance Guidance for Automated Vehicles, but many others have shared their opinions. Here’s how automakers, executives, industry associations and others have reacted to the new self-driving car guidelines.
Self-Driving Car Manufacturers
Audi: “Audi applauds the Department of Transportation’s pledge to combine an unwavering focus on safety with flexibility as it considers this important leap forward. The goal of regulators and of innovators at this stage should be to give the public a clear and transparent understanding of what these vehicles can – and cannot do – so that the promise of dramatically enhanced road travel is realized. This will be a crucial journey that can only be accomplished by working together to avoid a patchwork of policies that could stymie technological development expected to someday save tens of thousands of lives per year.”
Daimler, which owns Mercedes-Benz: The German automaker released a statement that said it’s “heartened by the collaborative approach” as the federal, state, and local authorities are working together on the US policies.
Ford: “Ford appreciates Secretary Foxx’s leadership and NHTSA’s thoughtful efforts to advance the future of mobility and ensure the United States continues to drive transportation innovation. Importantly, the guidance will help establish the basis for a national framework that enables the safe deployment of autonomous vehicles. Strides in this technology have the potential to improve safety on our roads and reduce congestion in urban areas.”
General Motors: “General Motors (GM) supports DOT’s and NHTSA’s efforts to speed deployment of autonomous vehicles (AVs) as a technology that has the potential to dramatically improve safety on our roads and highways and expand mobility options. “We welcome the effort, will review the guidance and look forward to continuing the constructive dialogue on how to safely deploy AVs as quickly as possible.” – statement via Fox Business
Honda: “Honda welcomes NHTSA’s leadership in providing federal guidance regarding on-road usage of connected and automated vehicles. Nationwide consideration of this guidance will help avoid a patchwork of differing state regulations and enable all automakers to continue rapid advancement of ongoing research in this area. Ultimately, this will bring these safety and convenience technologies to market more quickly for consumers.”
Toyota: “We also welcome NHTSA’s plans to use existing authorities to allow automakers to bring this technology safely to market. There are other concepts in the guidance that will take further analysis and careful consideration, but we look forward to working with NHTSA to finalize a federal framework that is best for consumers and their safety.”
Volvo: “While we are still examining the details, it seems that the scene has now been set for a speedier introduction of autonomous driving cars in the US. Let’s be clear what this means. It means saved lives.” – Hakan Samuelsson, chief executive of Volvo Cars, via the Financial Times
Industry Leaders & Associations
Joan Claybrook, former NHTSA administrator: “We are pleased that DOT is planning to address these issues and seeking public comment for this new system of transportation but it must not shy away from assuring public safety with minimum federal vehicle safety standards. It should not rely instead on mere guidance, including for the initial elements of automatic vehicle operation such as Automatic Emergency Brakes (AEB) that currently is only guided with a useless industry voluntary standard (it was the key element that failed in the Tesla fatal crashes.)”
Jacqueline Gillan, President of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety: “The guidance about future plans released today by the federal government must be considered a first step in the process of ensuring that AVs [autonomous vehicles] are safe for the public. While we welcome innovation and the life-saving potential of AVs, we are concerned about life-threatening dangers in a rush to market. The improvements promised by AVs needs to be framed and encouraged by federal safety standards which DOT has the authority to issue today. The DOT must ensure that the American public is not used to “beta test” these new technologies. Beta testing, to eliminate program flaws, can be used for computer simulations but not for real world situations impacting life and death.”
Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., member of Senate Commerce Committee, co-founder of Senate Smart Transportation Caucus: “To help these new technologies come to market, we must have a clear and consistent national framework to avoid a patchwork of state laws that may inhibit innovation. I am pleased that NHTSA’s guidance addresses this issue, and I urge states to work with NHTSA and other stakeholders to that end.”
Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers: “Guidance is the right action to take since the technology is developing quickly and collaboration between automakers and NHTSA is critical to avoid policies that become outdated and inadvertently limit progress in reducing the number of crashes and saving lives. A policy that evolves is smart given the pace of technology.”
Consumer Watchdog: “This isn’t the checkered flag to industry to irresponsibly develop robot cars that we had feared,” John Simpson, the group’s privacy director, said in a statement. “It’s not a secret, cozy process with the manufacturers, but includes a real commitment to transparency and public involvement.” – via The Verge
Mothers Against Drunk Driving: “Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) is proud to support the Department as it releases its policy on automated vehicles because we see a future where self-driving cars will save thousands of lives on our roads. A self-driving car can’t get drunk. A self-driving car can’t get distracted. And a self-driving car will follow the traffic laws and prioritize safety for pedestrians and bicyclists.”
Self-Driving Coalition for Safer Streets: “This is an important step forward in establishing the basis of a national framework for the deployment of self-driving vehicles. Historically, the U.S. has been a pioneer and world leader in automotive technology. A federal approach to the self-driving industry will be key to enhancing motor vehicle safety while continuing to promote U.S. leadership, competitiveness and innovation. The operating guidance will help create the foundation necessary to inform industry and future regulatory and legislative efforts.
“We believe guidance from NHTSA is crucial to achieving these goals as it recognizes the challenges specific to regulating a new technology. We support guidance that provides for the standardization of self-driving policies across all 50 states, incentivizes innovation, supports rapid testing and deployment in the real world.
“State and local governments also have complementary responsibilities and should work with the federal government to achieve and maintain our status as world leaders in innovation. With the guidance now publicly available, we encourage state policymakers to engage with our Coalition to develop the appropriate policy solutions, and we stand ready to provide support and expertise for both technological and policy questions.
“We look forward to continued collaboration with NHTSA and other federal and state policymakers to further develop the national framework for safe and timely deployment that avoids a patchwork of requirements that could inhibit self-driving vehicle development and operations.”
President Barack Obama wrote an op-ed for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazetteon Monday before the guidelines were officially released. Here’s the op-ed reprinted below:
“Things are a little different today than when I first moved into the White House. Back then, my watch told me the time. Today, it reminds me to exercise. In my first year, I couldn’t take pictures with my phone. Last year, I posted on Instagram from Alaska.
“Of course, American innovation is driving bigger changes, too: In the seven-and-a-half years of my presidency, self-driving cars have gone from sci-fi fantasy to an emerging reality with the potential to transform the way we live.
“Right now, too many people die on our roads – 35,200 last year alone – with 94 percent of those the result of human error or choice. Automated vehicles have the potential to save tens of thousands of lives each year. And right now, for too many senior citizens and Americans with disabilities, driving isn’t an option. Automated vehicles could change their lives.
“Safer, more accessible driving. Less congested, less polluted roads. That’s what harnessing technology for good can look like. But we have to get it right. Americans deserve to know they’ll be safe today even as we develop and deploy the technologies of tomorrow.
“That’s why my administration is rolling out new rules of the road for automated vehicles – guidance that the manufacturers developing self-driving cars should follow to keep us safe. And we’re asking them to sign a 15-point safety checklist showing not just the government, but every interested American, how they’re doing it.
“We’re also giving guidance to states on how to wisely regulate these new technologies, so that when a self-driving car crosses from Ohio into Pennsylvania, its passengers can be confident that other vehicles will be just as responsibly deployed and just as safe.
“Regulation can go too far. Government sometimes gets it wrong when it comes to rapidly changing technologies. That’s why this new policy is flexible and designed to evolve with new advances.
“There are always those who argue that government should stay out of free enterprise entirely, but I think most Americans would agree we still need rules to keep our air and water clean, and our food and medicine safe. That’s the general principle here. What’s more, the quickest way to slam the brakes on innovation is for the public to lose confidence in the safety of new technologies.
“Both government and industry have a responsibility to make sure that doesn’t happen. And make no mistake: If a self-driving car isn’t safe, we have the authority to pull it off the road. We won’t hesitate to protect the American public’s safety.
“Even as we focus on the safety of automated vehicles, we know that this technology, as with any new technology, has the potential to create new jobs and render other jobs obsolete. So it’s critical that we also provide new resources and job training to prepare every American for the good-paying jobs of tomorrow.
“We’re determined to help the private sector get this technology right from the start. Because technology isn’t just about the latest gadget or app – it’s about making people’s lives better. That’s going to be the focus of the first-ever White House Frontiers Conference on Oct. 13. And what better place to hold it than Pittsburgh – a city that has harnessed innovation to redefine itself as a center for technology, health care and education.
“We’ll explore the future of innovation in America and around the world, focusing on building our capacity in science, technology and innovation, as well as the new technologies, challenges and goals that will shape the next century.
“The progress we’ve seen in automated vehicles over the past several years shows what our country is capable of when our engineers and entrepreneurs, our scientists and our students – backed by federal and private investment – pour their best work and brightest ideas toward a big, bold goal. That’s the spirit that has propelled us forward since before the automobile was invented. Now it’s up to us to keep driving toward a better future for everyone.”