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  • William Maley
    William Maley
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    NHTSA Announces Research, Guidelines On Autonomous Cars

    William Maley

    Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com

    May 31, 2013

    With automakers and researchers testing autonomous cars more and more, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration put its regulatory hat on and announced guidelines that outline the recommended rules for the vehicles and drivers.

    NHTSA in its guidelines says it recognizes five different levels of vehicle automation. Those five levels are,

    • Level 0 - No Automation: Driver is in complete control of the vehicle
    • Level 1- Function-specific Automation: Vehicle has some features that can temporally take control of the vehicle, such as electronic stability control or pre-charged brakes
    • Level 2 - Combined Function Automation: Two Features work together to temporary relieve the driver of control. Example is adaptive cruise control with lane centering.
    • Level 3 - Limited Self-Driving Automation: Vehicle can drive it self, but must give back control to the driver under certain conditions
    • Level 4 - Full Self-Driving Automation: Vehicle performs all driving functions without any human interaction

    NHTSA also issued recommended guidelines for states that want to allow autonomous vehicles to test on public roads. Those guidelines include a special driver’s license endorsements for anyone operating an autonomous or semi-autonomous vehicles and limitations on where and in what types of conditions autonomous vehicles can operate.

    In addition to their guidelines, NHTSA announced a four-year initial research program that will look at how autonomous and partially autonomous technologies can have an impact on safety.

    "Whether we're talking about automated features in cars today or fully automated vehicles of the future, our top priority is to ensure these vehicles – and their occupants – are safe. Our research covers all levels of automation, including advances like automatic braking that may save lives in the near term, while the recommendations to states help them better oversee self-driving vehicle development, which holds promising long-term safety benefits," said Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood.

    Source: NHTSA

    William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.comor you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster.

    Press Release is on Page 2

    U.S. Department of Transportation Releases Policy on Automated Vehicle Development

    NHTSA 14-13

    Thursday, May 30, 2013

    Provides guidance to states permitting testing of emerging vehicle technology

    WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) today announced a new policy concerning vehicle automation, including its plans for research on related safety issues and recommendations for states related to the testing, licensing, and regulation of "autonomous" or "self-driving" vehicles. Self-driving vehicles are those in which operation of the vehicle occurs without direct driver input to control the steering, acceleration, and braking and are designed so that the driver is not expected to constantly monitor the roadway while operating in self-driving mode.

    "Whether we're talking about automated features in cars today or fully automated vehicles of the future, our top priority is to ensure these vehicles – and their occupants – are safe," said Secretary Ray LaHood. "Our research covers all levels of automation, including advances like automatic braking that may save lives in the near term, while the recommendations to states help them better oversee self-driving vehicle development, which holds promising long-term safety benefits."

    NHTSA's policy addresses:

    • An explanation of the many areas of vehicle innovation and types of automation that offer significant potential for enormous reductions in highway crashes and deaths;
    • A summary of the research NHTSA has planned or has begun to help ensure that all safety issues related to vehicle automation are explored and addressed; and
    • Recommendations to states that have authorized operation of self-driving vehicles, for test purposes, on how best to ensure safe operation as these new concepts are being tested on highways.

    Several states, including Nevada, California and Florida have enacted legislation that expressly permits operation of self-driving (sometimes called "autonomous") vehicles under certain conditions. These experimental vehicles are at the highest end of a wide range of automation that begins with some safety features already in vehicles, such as electronic stability control. Today's policy will provide states interested in passing similar laws with assistance to ensure that their legislation does not inadvertently impact current vehicle technology and that the testing of self-driving vehicles is conducted safely.

    "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," said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. "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."

    The policy statement also describes NHTSA's research efforts related to autonomous vehicles. While the technology remains in early stages, NHTSA is conducting research on self-driving vehicles so that the agency has the tools to establish standards for these vehicles, should the vehicles become commercially available. The first phase of this research is expected to be completed within the next four years.

    NHTSA's many years of research on vehicle automation have already led to regulatory and other policy developments. The agency's work on electronic stability control (ESC), for example, led to a standard mandating that form of automated technology on all new light vehicles since MY 2011. More recently, NHTSA issued a proposal that would require ESC on new heavy vehicles.

    NHTSA defines vehicle automation as having five levels:

    • No-Automation (Level 0): The driver is in complete and sole control of the primary vehicle controls – brake, steering, throttle, and motive power – at all times.
    • Function-specific Automation (Level 1): Automation at this level involves one or more specific control functions. Examples include electronic stability control or pre-charged brakes, where the vehicle automatically assists with braking to enable the driver to regain control of the vehicle or stop faster than possible by acting alone.
    • Combined Function Automation (Level 2): This level involves automation of at least two primary control functions designed to work in unison to relieve the driver of control of those functions. An example of combined functions enabling a Level 2 system is adaptive cruise control in combination with lane centering.
    • Limited Self-Driving Automation (Level 3): Vehicles at this level of automation enable the driver to cede full control of all safety-critical functions under certain traffic or environmental conditions and in those conditions to rely heavily on the vehicle to monitor for changes in those conditions requiring transition back to driver control. The driver is expected to be available for occasional control, but with sufficiently comfortable transition time. The Google car is an example of limited self-driving automation.
    • Full Self-Driving Automation (Level 4): The vehicle is designed to perform all safety-critical driving functions and monitor roadway conditions for an entire trip. Such a design anticipates that the driver will provide destination or navigation input, but is not expected to be available for control at any time during the trip. This includes both occupied and unoccupied vehicles.

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    While it is good to have standards set as a starting point, I hope they are fast to change / update them as technology changes.

    I also find the descriptions to be out of date already since they are making so many automation safety devices required on new auto's.

    How about a requirement that says if you buy a self driving auto you do not have to have insurance any longer. What a waste of money when autos are self driving.

    Course does that mean the auto company than provides the insurance for any freak accidents?

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    Technology getting a bit out of hand. What happens the moment any one of these sensors fails? Who's fault is it? Is the sensor's insurance going to go up or be dropped? Who gets the ticket if the error is computer related.

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