Ford testing self-driving cars in winter conditions. The Obama administration says its new policy will support for more such testing for autonomous vehicles. (Photo: Ford Motor Co.)
The Obama Administration unveiled its new Federal Automated Vehicles Policy today, which is designed in its words to "help facilitate the responsible introduction" of autonomous vehicles to "make transportation safer, cleaner, more accessible, and more efficient."
The administration said in a statement that the primary focus for this new policy is on highly automated vehicles, or HAVs, in which the vehicle can take full control of the driving task in at least some circumstances.
Portions of the policy also apply to lower levels of automation, including some of the driver-assistance systems already being deployed by automakers today, the administration said.
Key components of Obama’s new policy initiative include:
•Guidance that provides a 15-point safety assessment intended for manufacturers, developers and other organizations to safely design, develop, test and deploy automated vehicles;
•Models for state-level policy initiatives to provide "a clear distinction" between federal and state responsibilities for regulation of HAVs, as well as suggested policy areas for states to consider with a goal of generating a consistent national framework for testing and deploying highly automated vehicles;
•An outline of current Department of Transportation (DOT) regulatory tools for accelerating safe development of HAVs, such as interpreting current rules to allow greater flexibility in design and providing limited exemptions to allow testing of nontraditional vehicles in more timely fashion; and
•Potential new regulatory tools and statutory authorities the administration says could aid in safe and efficient deployment of automated technologies.
The administration referenced several other initiatives in its new policy statement, noting that President Obama proposed investing $4 billion earlier this year to help foster automated vehicle deployment. DOT is also doing something similar with its Smart City Challenge, providing $40 million through that program to help Columbus, OH, become the first city to fully integrate a range of “innovative” technologies – including automated vehicle technologies – into its transportation network.