NSPE Submits Formal Autonomous Vehicle Comment to Shape National Guidelines

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

NSPE continues to provide its expertise in the autonomous vehicle discussion, advancing the Society’s mission of protecting the public health, safety, and welfare in the development and deployment of these technologies. On May 3, NSPE President Tim Austin, P.E., F.NSPE, submitted a formal comment for National Highway Traffic Safety Administration rulemaking, expected to be finalized this summer.

In April, NHTSA convened a national hearing in Washington, DC, to gather input on developing Guidelines for the Safe Deployment and Operation of Automated Vehicle Safety Technologies. NSPE Executive Director Mark Golden presented on NSPE’s position.

The NHTSA panel requested that NSPE also include in its formal submission the comments and guidance the Society provided to the California Department of Motor Vehicles as part of its recent rulemaking. NSPE also incorporated the Society’s related letter to the California PATH Program at UC Berkeley, which worked closely with the California DMV on the rulemaking. (Read the letters.)

As NSPE stated in the formal comment to NHTSA:

“We do not believe that the technology has yet advanced enough to deploy fully autonomous vehicles. Deploying such cars when there are still issues with navigating in inclement weather, merging at intersections, responding to non-autonomous vehicles, responding to road hazards or sub-optimal operating conditions—in short, responding to the unexpected and variable conditions that manned vehicles routinely face on the roadway today—a vehicle without an operator poses a major threat to the public safety. Let’s acknowledge the current limitations of the technology, work within those limitations, and take an important first step, not a final one, to develop and deploy technology that offers significant but as-yet-unproven promises for improved transportation efficiency and safety.”

NSPE will provide an update when NHTSA releases the finalized federal guidelines.