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NHTSA wants better safeguards before autonomous vehicles be used for general purposes on the roads

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said autonomous vehicles should only be used for testing purposes by U.S. states until more safety features are added to these cars.

In a new set of recommendations, the NHTSA said self-driving cars need plenty of safety-related improvements before being considered for widespread consumer use. For instance, the agency said these vehicles should have a feature that recognizes when their technology is failing, and let the driver know so that they can take over quickly. 

NHTSA also said that autonomous vehicles should be able to record these failures so that they can be understood later.

“We believe there are a number of technological issues as well as human performance issues that must be addressed before self-driving vehicles can be made widely available,” NHTSA said in its automated driving policy statement. “Self-driving vehicle technology is not yet at the stage of sophistication or demonstrated safety capability that it should be authorized for use by members of the public for general driving purposes.”

Some of the safety features the NHTSA is considering for autonomous vehicles is automatic braking, where the car would jump in and brake before a crash occurred. 

Self-driving cars are currently being tested in California, Florida and Nevada, and the NHTSA said these cars should remain in a testing phase only until safety features improve. Once this happens, the NHTSA will reconsider their recommendations. 

NHTSA Administrator David Strickland said that autonomous vehicles are a long way away from hitting the roads beyond testing. 

“We’re encouraged by the new automated vehicle technologies being developed and implemented today, but want to ensure that motor vehicle safety is considered in the development of these advances,” Strickland said. “As additional states consider similar legislation, our recommendations provide lawmakers with the tools they need to encourage the safe development and implementation of automated vehicle technology.”

Many believe the NHTSA is putting autonomous vehicles off because they would eliminate revenue from traffic violations (since the cars would prevent crashes, stop at red lights, drive the speed limit, etc.) and would hurt municipalities. 

Last October, NHTSA announced that it would work on a 2-3 year project for autonomous vehicle rules. It said the research would include topics such as safety standards (such as crashtest results) and software security (to ensure that hackers don't take over). 

Source: The Detroit News

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RE: The future
By BRB29 on 5/31/2013 10:00:40 AM , Rating: 2
I know by pure statistics and logic that machines will always make considerable much less errors than humans. Everyone would be much safer overall.

But the scenario of a self driving vehicle most likely mean the human inside is paying minimal attention. If you're driving and you made an error causing an accident enduring injuries then you accept that. If a machine malfunctions or whatever and gets someone killed, how would people feel about that.

Autopilot on planes has been around forever. It is much better at flying than pilots. It can also take off and land better too. But despite that, we still trust pilots more and therefore have both.

I just feel like having driving and everything else automated is like losing my rights. I also feel like we lose a part of being human. Many people including me likes driving and enjoy it. With autonomous vehicles, there will be a manual mode for drivers to assume control. But I know they will stop making vehicles for the drivers and therefore less engaging. Most vehicles will end up being more towards a camry in driving dynamics.

It's like old cars of the past vs now. Sure the cars now are better but nothing beats the raw connection between man and machine of the older cars. Technology improved our society vastly and is here to stay. I just hope that they will still retain some of that essence of life of having less tech.

RE: The future
By euclidean on 5/31/2013 10:24:50 AM , Rating: 2
What about people who take buses and trains for their transportation and don't own a car? Other than being 'in public', I would say the experience could be very similar.

I think those who do want to keep that connection, will always be able to. When I think of a world of autonomous cars, I tend to think of it more like the movie iRobot (I'm not saying the movie was great or bad, just using it as an example) - the cars drove themselves, you could do a manual override, and if all else fails you still have your Bike, Muscle car, or whatever in a garage you can drive when you need to 'feel' that connection.

Hehe...ridiculous to even think that something like that could be possible in my lifetime...

RE: The future
By Mint on 5/31/2013 11:42:48 AM , Rating: 2
It's basically like being chauffeured everywhere. I don't think that's so bad :)

RE: The future
By Spuke on 5/31/2013 12:06:46 PM , Rating: 2
What about all the illegal immigrants (or other poor people for that matter)? I bring this up because there is a significant amount of them driving. And the vast majority of them don't drive new or even newer cars (can't afford to) and probably never will. Are we going to have autonomous cars on the roads with non-autonomous? IMO, that's a WHOLE other bag of problems to fix if we go that route. I see the tech being firmed up LONG before implementation.

RE: The future
By BRB29 on 5/31/2013 12:46:50 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, there would be a mix for a while. I can't see the government telling everyone they have to buy a new autonomous vehicle. They can only do that if they pay for it. I have a feeling these vehicles will only happen when EV becomes mainstream.

RE: The future
By Spuke on 5/31/2013 1:06:13 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, there would be a mix for a while. I can't see the government telling everyone they have to buy a new autonomous vehicle.
The gov can't (and won't) mandate these cars. I don't see this as very safe at all and it won't fix our traffic problems either. At least not until the majority are in self-driven cars.

RE: The future
By BRB29 on 5/31/2013 1:24:27 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, it won't eliminate traffic problems until most cars are autonomous. I can see that happening in the future.

The government won't mandate these cars but they can definitely mandate every car built will have an autonomous mode. It won't be any time soon but it's clear that it's heading that way. The fact that they allow them to be tested on some public roads means they are serious about this technology.

RE: The future
By Spuke on 5/31/2013 2:11:01 PM , Rating: 2
Oh I agree, it is definitely happening and I will own one. I just think the big hurdles don't involve the tech.

RE: The future
By Mint on 6/1/2013 7:52:43 AM , Rating: 2
It should be able to help incrementally. Autonomous cars can form trains that move in sync safely at speed with a smaller gap, reducing bubbles and increasing the number of cars per second in a lane.

I also expect there to be HOV access and eventually dedicated lanes to autonomous cars to help this along, where they can take this principle to the extreme.

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