Yesterday, federal officials released new safety guidelines in an effort to regulate software and operational parameters for self-autonomous vehicles (SAVs – which are also referred to as self-driving vehicles).
These new guidelines could impact several major automakers that are in the process of developing SAVs, including Audi, Bosch, Delphi Automotive, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan Tesla, Toyota (in conjunction with Google), Mercedes-Benz, and Nissan. The primary goals of these guidelines involve reducing crashes and saving lives.
Elucidating this point, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx has recently explained that:
We’re saying that when the software is operating the vehicle, that is an area that we intend to regulate…When a human being is operating the vehicle, the traditional laws that have conventionally applied will still apply.
An Overview of the Federal Government’s SAV Guidelines
Sharing Data with the Government – These new SAVs are equipped with a lot of computer-driven technology and sensors that collect data. The government has instructed car manufacturers to share this data with regulators, who will be focused on analyzing how SAVs are involved in crashes.
Privacy – SAV manufacturers will be required to take whatever steps necessary to protect the consumers’ privacy. Consumers should be notified by SAV makers of the specific type of data being collected, such as personal information, driving records and/or driving behaviors.
System Safety – Manufacturers and other collaborators should have rigorous design and validation processes. The cars need to be engineered to safely respond to (& minimize the risk of) near collisions, software malfunctions, slippery roads, and other factors. Car manufacturers will be required to get a third party to validate their safety systems and evaluate SAVs to ensure they operate safely, regardless of the specific roadway conditions.
SAV Cybersecurity – SAV manufacturers need to have a robust engineering process in place that ensures all safety risks are minimized, including cybersecurity issues. Such measures should include ongoing evaluation of safety risk assessment for SAVs, vehicle design, and (when applicable) the transportation environment. All design and programming decisions involving testing and security should be recorded and shared with others in the industry.
Human Machine Interface – SAV manufacturers must develop a safe mechanism to alert drivers when it’s necessary to take manual control of the vehicle. SAV manufacturers should work together to devise a communication system that interacts with pedestrians or other SAVs (when functioning in autopilot mode). SAVs should also be fully compatible with the capabilities of disabled drivers.
Consumer Education – All SAV manufacturers need to develop, document and maintain employee, dealer, retailer and consumer education and training programs on how to operate SAVs safely.
Certification – All software, including updates, and driverless features must be submitted to federal officials for approval and certification.
Post-Crash Behavior – All SAV manufacturers must have a documented process for evaluating, testing and validating how their SAVs are restored to operational service.
Laws and Practices – All SAVs need to comply with all federal, state, and local driving regulations. For instance, SAVs must be able to monitor and abide by posted speed limits, U-turn laws, etc.
Ethical Considerations – All SAVs will need to be programmed with “ethical considerations” that mimic the decisions of human drivers. For example, manufacturers should design SAVs to make safe decisions when it’s necessary to determine whether to protect SAV occupants or the other drivers in the event of an impending crash. All ethical design considerations must be shared with the federal authorities.
Direction and Response – All SAV manufacturers must show their vehicles can operate in the presence of adverse conditions, such as animals darting into traffic, debris or objects on the road, etc. The SAVs must also be able to safely respond to standard operating conditions, like changing lanes or slowing down for changing traffic lights.
Fallback – When the SAVs malfunctions, there needs to be a seamless transition from autopilot to human-controlled driving. The SAV must also be to account for when the driver is under the influence of alcohol (or is otherwise unable to safely operate the vehicle).
Validation Methods – All SAV manufacturers need to develop reliable validation methods to ensure their vehicles meet the highest level of safety standards. Testing should include simulation, private track testing, as well as real-life, on-the-road testing.
Contact a Middlesex County Personal Injury Lawyer at Mayo Law
If you or a loved one has been injured in any type of auto crash, contact a Middlesex County personal injury lawyer at Mayo Law for more information about your options for financial recovery.
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