U.S. Guidelines on Driverless Cars Offer Some Direction on Future Policy

The U.S. Department of Transportation released long-awaited guidelines Tuesday for the testing and deployment of self-driving vehicles, giving manufacturers and researchers some clarity for the future, but providing only a vague sense of the federal government's exact responsibilities.

At a Tuesday morning news conference, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx described the 116-page policy document as "the most comprehensive national automated vehicle policy that the world has ever seen."

However, he added that the policy is a "living document" and leaves room for "more growth and changes in the future."

"One of reasons we take great pains not to be so prescriptive" is because the technology is "dynamic" and changing fast, he said, so the government needs to be "flexible."

In the document, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration emphasized that it did not intend to write the "final word on highly automated vehicles" with these guidelines.

"Rather, we intend to establish a foundation and a framework upon which future agency action will occur," the agency wrote.

The document outlines a "15-point safety assessment" letter that manufacturers and researchers will be asked to submit to the agency explaining how the vehicle and its technology address issues such as vehicle cybersecurity and system safety. Eventually, this could become a mandatory report.

It also describes a model state policy for regulation of driverless vehicles.

The U.S. Department of Transportation will be responsible for regulating the hardware and software that's doing the driving -- in other words, federal regulations must be followed when the car is being driven by the software. When humans are driving, "state laws apply," Foxx said Tuesday morning.

States will be responsible for designating a lead agency in charge of self-driving vehicle testing, as well as a committee focused on automated safety technology.

They will also be responsible for determining liability rules for driverless vehicles, establishing a plan to limit...

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