New report warns our regulations aren't ready for self-driving cars

Rules need to change with the times

Mercedes driverless car

As the development of driverless cars continues by the likes of Google, Telsa and other manufacturers, a new report released by the Department of Transportation (DOT) says current regulations aren't prepared for the evolving design of vehicles.

The report, put together by the department's Volpe National Transportation Systems Center, assessed the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) to determine what challenges there may be for driverless car concepts that basically do away with steering wheels, pedals and a human driver.

The report looked at standards that refer to a human driver, along with standards that would affect "a wide range of automated vehicle capabilities and concepts."

Unsurprisingly, it found that "many standards, as currently written, are based on assumptions of conventional vehicle designs and thus pose challenges for certain design concepts, particularly for 'driverless' concepts where human occupants have no way of driving the vehicle."

Meanwhile, driverless cars that can have a driver (if needed), pedals and a steering wheel, are mostly covered by the standards, however those that push the boundaries of traditional design, "would be constrained by the current FMVSS, or may not fully meet the objectives" of the standards.

We're evolving

The government said in January that it's hoping to have groundwork policies for state regulations and guidelines for self-driving car manufacturers later this year. This report plays an important role in finding holes in current federal standards.

"We are witnessing a revolution in auto technology that has the potential to save thousands of lives," said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx in a statement today.

"In order to achieve that potential, we need to establish guidelines for manufacturers that clearly outline how we expect automated vehicles to function - not only safely, but more safely - on our roads."

The government also hopes to spend $4 billion over the next 10 years to help the development, testing and deployment of automated vehicle technologies in the country.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will hold a public meeting on April 8 at the DOT headquarters in Washington, D.C. A second meeting in California will be scheduled soon.

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