Why Federal Regulators Should Slow Down On Autonomous Cars

Apr 12, 2016 11:29 PM EDT | Victor Thomson

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Automakers, safety advocates and engineers recommend more regulations before the autonomous cars would be allowed on the road. During a public meeting at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (Nhtsa) on Friday, April 8, several experts expressed their opinion that self-driving cars are not yet ready for the public roads.

While autonomous cars will certainly become a common occurrence on the future roads, the Nhtsa should first take into consideration the safety message coming from the auto industry experts, according to Wheels 24. The federal regulators need to slow down their timeline and not rush in allowing autonomous cars on the road.

The federal agency started to design the guidelines for autonomous vehicles in January and promised to complete their work by July, Ars Technica reported. The Nhtsa has a rapid timetable for deploying the self-driving vehicles, but a more deliberative approach would be required.

The agency is working with the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators and with officials in states to agree first on a state policy model. This could be used eventually as base for developing a consistent policy for the whole nation.

Paul Scullion, safety manager at the Association of Global Automakers, declared in the meeting hosted by Nhtsa that there are risks that should not be underestimated. The process of creating the guidelines for the self-driving cars may override the traditional way the government used to issue standards and regulations. 

According to Scullion, usually this process involves procedural safeguards that are put in place for valid reasons. Even if this process is time-consuming, it would not be a good idea to try working outside the normal procedures just to adapt to fast advances in technology.

The difference between regulations and guidance is that guidance is usually open to interpretation and more general, while regulations are enforceable. An average of eight years is usually required for issuing new regulations.

But the Nhtsa's administrator, Mark Rosekind, said that, because the first implementations of the self-driving technology are already on the road, the agency cannot wait for longer. Federal instructions are necessary as guidance on what can be allowed on the road in the short term.

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