The US government has outlined a six-part plan that it will use to inform future policy on autonomous vehicles, after the Department of Transportation (DOT) published an 80-page document on the technology that it said could “transform mobility” and “improve safety”. Billed as a clear and consistent Federal approach to shaping policy for automated vehicles – and with input from manufacturers and technology developers, infrastructure owners and transport – the report said that the focus should be on removing the “unnecessary barriers that could stifle innovation”.
Writing in Preparing for the Future of Transportation, DOT Secretary Elaine Chao said that vehicular automation could improve the independence for millions of Americans, especially those with mobility issues. “Automation has the potential to impact safety significantly – by reducing crashes caused by human error, including crashes involving impaired or distracted drivers, and saving lives,” wrote Secretary Chao.
The DOT’s six principles are:
1. We will prioritise safety
2. We will remain technology neutral
3. We will modernise regulations
4. We will encourage a consistent regulatory and operational environment
5. We will prepare proactively for automation
6. We will protect and enhance the freedoms enjoyed by Americans.
The DOT quoted figures that illustrated why it was so keen to introduce a viable autonomous industry, with the remarkable statistic that 94% of serious crashes involved driver-related error, something that – in the event of vehicles without steering wheels – would presumably become a thing of the past. Certainly, logistics industry drivers that, according to figures in Preparing for the Future of Transportation, are 10-times more likely to be killed on the job when compared with ‘average’ workers would stand to benefit.
Chao was keen to stress, though, that there was a long road ahead before the general public can be convinced of the complete safety of driverless vehicles, and called on the leading tech brains in the US to help. “The public has legitimate concerns about the safety, security, and privacy of automated technology. So I have challenged Silicon Valley and other innovators to step up and help address these concerns and help inform the public about the benefits of automation,” adding that the technology could one day create new kinds of jobs and require transport workforces to upskill and take on new roles.
In its 2018 Self-Driving Safety Report, General Motors (GM), the Detroit-headquartered vehicle manufacturer of brands including Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC, gave details of the work it is doing to make its autonomous vehicles as safe as possible. The company has a risk management programme that includes perception sensors, which track and classify objects; integrated health monitors, which keeps track of diagnostics; and collision detection that includes a crash-imminent braking system. GM is giving the general public the chance to see the technology they are developing at first hand, to help change the perception of autonomous vehicles, with a ride-share service using Cruise AV, the company’s zero-emission, self-driving car.
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