United States: Department Of Transportation Releases Policy Guidance On Autonomous Vehicle Technology (Part I: Industry Guidance)

Last Updated: September 27 2016
Article by Jason P. Britt

As automakers and their suppliers alike have been working through the issues confronting autonomous vehicles, they have been doing so with a giant blind spot: just how the federal government, which regulates almost every aspect of automotive design, was going to approach the question of standards for autonomous cars. Fortunately, we have now seen some first steps toward that approach—and the Department of Transportation (with President Obama's enthusiastic backing) appears to be fully on board with autonomous vehicle development.

In its September 2016 Policy Guidance, DOT noted that over 35,000 people died on U.S. roads in 2015, and that 94% of crashes can be tied to human error. The report states that vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) technologies, in combination with automation systems, could reduce both the number and severity of crashes. Further, it could help populations that currently struggle with mobility—whether due to age, disability, expense or inconvenience of vehicle ownership, or otherwise—be able to retain their independence.

DOT's policy guidance includes guidance for manufacturers themselves, as well as for states considering how to regulate autonomous vehicle technologies. Guidance to manufacturers covers the following fifteen items:

  • Data Recording and Sharing: Manufacturers should have a written process for how their vehicles will record event, incident, and crash data, as well as for how that data can be collected and validated. The Policy Guidance suggests that such data should be retrieved for use by the manufacturer (or NHTSA) to investigate the cause of any accident where there is an injury or fatality, or whenever one of the vehicles involved is badly damaged enough that it can no longer drive away under its own power.
  • Consumer Privacy: The Policy Guidance states that manufacturers should maintain privacy policies and practices that, among other things, ensure transparency and security to consumers regarding manufacturer use of their data.
  • System Safety: While it should come as no surprise that safety of autonomous systems is a major concern, the Policy Guidance emphasizes a few aspects of the challenge facing manufacturers. In addition to existing vehicle safety standards and the need to ensure that autonomous systems can be safely integrated with the overall vehicle design, the Policy Guidance points out that any design and validation process should focus on software development and validation, and include considerations such as the impact of failures in the various components of the autonomous system, including sensors, software, actuators, or communication systems, as well as how the software will deal with events such as leaving the roadway or collisions.
  • Vehicle Cybersecurity: The Policy Guidance states that a documented cybersecurity process should be implemented, with design choices, changes, and other updates rigorously documented. While less specific about exact steps that automakers can take, the Policy Guidance notes that the National Institute for Standards and Technology (or NIST), NHTSA, SAE International, and other agencies and organizations have released and continue to update guidance for vehicle cybersecurity.
  • Human Machine Interface: DOT notes that this is particular an issue for intermediate-level autonomous driving systems, in which vehicles can operate autonomously, but can request that the driver take back control. For autonomous systems in general, the Policy Guidance states that autonomous driving systems must be able to communicate to the operator that the system is (1) functioning properly, (2) engaged, (3) unavailable to be engaged, (4) experiencing a malfunction, and (5) requesting that the driver take control. For more advanced autonomous systems—such as for completely unoccupied vehicles—a remote dispatcher or other authority should be able to monitor the vehicle at all times.
  • Crashworthiness: The Policy Guidance notes that autonomous vehicles should meet existing crashworthiness standards—but also that non-occupied vehicles should be designed to a standard of due care for other road users, including standards for energy absorption and shape that are compatible with other vehicles on the road.
  • Consumer Education and Training: DOT's guidance here is that manufacturers should develop and document education and training systems for their consumers and their dealers, including regarding how autonomous systems are intended to be used, their operational parameters, capabilities and limitations, their controls, emergency situations, and user responsibilities.
  • Registration and Certification: The Policy Guidance states that autonomous vehicle system manufacturers should submit to existing NHTSA regulations requiring submission of identifying information and a description of safety-sensitive equipment. Additionally, the guidance states that manufacturers should provide a way to communicate the capabilities of their autonomous systems to the user, such as by semi-permanent labeling, or by displays that the driver can see. That information may include the parameters in which the system should be engaged, or the system's capabilities.
  • Post-Crash Behavior: The guidance suggests that manufacturers should have a documented process for assessing, testing, and validating autonomous vehicle systems after a crash, to ensure that the vehicle can safely return to autonomous mode after systems have potentially been damages.
  • Federal, State, and Local Laws: DOT also states that manufacturers should have documented plans for compliance with federal, state, and local laws. However, the guidance also states that DOT expects that autonomous vehicle software will have the capability to "temporarily violate certain State motor vehicle driving laws" in safety-sensitive situations—the same way that a human driver might briefly cross a double-yellow line to safely navigate around a broken-down car on the shoulder.
  • Ethical Considerations: Autonomous vehicle systems will be forced to make a variety of decisions that could have an ethical dimension—for example, it is not hard to think of a scenario where the vehicle might have to make a choice between two alternatives, one of which presents more risk of injury to the vehicle's own occupants, and another that presents more risk of harm to the occupants of another vehicle (or to a pedestrian). Again, there is little concrete guidance on this point, except that decision rules should be made "transparently using input from Federal and State regulators," as well as from road users.
  • Operational Design Domain: The Policy Guidance suggests that manufacturers define and document the operational design domain—meaning the conditions in which each system is designed to function—for each of its autonomous systems, including: roadway types, geographic areas, speed range, and environmental conditions. These conditions should be communicated to operators in "summary form and in plain language" in the owner's manual.
  • Object and Event Detection and Response: Manufacturers should have a documented assessment, testing, and validation process for detecting and responding to obstacles, which include other vehicles, cyclists, pedestrians, animals, and other objects that pose a safety issue. Other potential issues that autonomous systems should be able to recognize and deal with include work zones, police or others temporarily directing traffic, or emergency vehicles.
  • Fall Backs: The Policy Guidance states that manufacturers should document how their systems will transition to a minimal risk condition when a malfunction or other problem (such as a change in driving conditions) is confronted. What a minimal risk condition looks like, and how a vehicle gets there, may change based on circumstance—it may involve automatically stopping the vehicle on the shoulder, or alerting the driver to resume control.
  • Validation Methods: Here, again, DOT stresses the need for testing and validation of autonomous vehicle systems, to ensure that the systems work safely both in normal operating conditions, during crash avoidance maneuvers, or while performing fall back functions. DOT suggests that independent third-party testing may be appropriate, and manufacturers are encouraged to work with NHTSA, SAE, and NIST to develop testing approaches for these systems.

The Policy Guidance, while not a regulation, provides DOT's interpretation and guidance under existing regulations and laws, and should be closely monitored by manufacturers, or by other businesses playing a role in the development of autonomous vehicles. These policy statements are not set in stone—interested parties can submit public comments, and DOT will update the Policy Guidance based on these comments, and on lessons that continue to be learned about this new area of technology.

In our next post, we will look at some of the DOT's suggestions to states on how to approach autonomous vehicle regulation.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Foley & Lardner
Holland & Knight
 
In association with
Related Topics
 
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Foley & Lardner
Holland & Knight
Related Articles
 
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions