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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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Intelligent Roads First
By Coldfriction on 5/31/2013 10:53:56 AM , Rating: 2
The intelligence needs to be in the road first. Trying to replicate a human mind in the decision making process of operating a vehicle is too big a problem to solve in a manner people will accept. Adoption of automated travel will require small steps that to convince a critical mass of the populace that automated travel is safe and better for humanity. When the road knows where every vehicle is on it, where it is trying to go, the velocity it is travelling at, etc. then automated personal vehicles start to make a lot more sense.

The real problem with automation is that it scares the hell out of nearly all risk management groups. Who is to blame when something goes wrong and ten people die on the road? Typically the blame is placed on a human driver for making a mistake, occasionally it is placed on the road design or signage, and rarely/never it is placed on the company that builds vehicles with mechanical flaws (although we do see recalls occasionally).

So, ten people die on the road and nobody was operating a vehicle. Do we blame the automation software/equipment? Do we blame the driver who wasn't paying attention? Do we blame the government that currently manages the roads? How is the law supposed to be written such that guilt may be determined? This is far bigger an obstacle in the eyes of government officials than any technological barrier is.

While I believe that an automated road would reduce road fatalities by more than 95%, having a hard time pinning the blame for the few that still die on the road may be the thing that keeps this great idea from taking off the ground. The libertian mindset of Nevada isn't letting it hold them back in allowing automated vehicles and perhaps it will prove a great testbed for others to follow.

What really urks me is that under the current transportation system the only improvements to how roads are built is through government (at least in the United States). The same government is what holds back advanced modern technology from being implemented whether it is an improvement or not.

RE: Intelligent Roads First
By Mint on 5/31/2013 12:41:31 PM , Rating: 2
Do we blame the driver who wasn't paying attention?
I think it's pretty clear that this the way it'll be in the near future, and there's no reason for the blame to put anywhere else.

When the technology gets good enough, I suspect we'll have insurance companies have dual insurance pricing for automated and manual driving, and for the former they'll have near unlimited coverage. They'll charge rates based on each system's accident history.

Accidents will treated just like today when you use adaptive cruise control. If 10 people get mowed down, damages are awarded to the victims' families, and the owner/driver gets charged with vehicular homicide.

Does that mean that people will never truly be free from babysitting the system? I doubt it. Eventually the risk will be seen to be low enough that they'll accept it and will do whatever they want in the car.

"The whole principle [of censorship] is wrong. It's like demanding that grown men live on skim milk because the baby can't have steak." -- Robert Heinlein
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