U.S. releases safety recommendations for driverless cars

Many people claim that driverless cars are our future and that the technology will reduce accidents by eliminating human error. Others feel vehicles without a driver open us up to a host of safety issues and potential hazards.

One thing about driverless cars is clear: They are here today and being tested on the roads now. On Tuesday, September 20, the U.S. Department of Transportation issued government safety recommendations for makers of automated vehicles.

The Federal Automated Vehicles Policy includes a 15-point safety assessment that vehicle makers are encouraged to conduct on driverless cars. It provides national guidelines and recommendations for a number of factors, including:

  • How driverless vehicles should be tested
  • How vehicles should be programmed to comply with current traffic laws
  • Safeguards that should be in place in case systems fail
  • Provisions to prevent vehicle hacking

"As the Department charged with protecting the traveling public, we intend to establish a foundation and a framework upon which future governmental action will occur," Secretary of Transportation Anthony R. Foxx said in the related DOT brief.

The policy was developed and released as recommendations rather than firm regulations to meet the demand for national standards sooner rather than later. The yearlong process to develop regulations could result in rules released after fast-emerging technologies.

This is not to imply that the policy was formed haphazardly. In fact, the DOT conferred with many groups on its development, including state governments, safety and industry experts and the driving public, and will rely on feedback for future policy updates.

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