New Autonomous Vehicle Policy Guide Aims to Protect the Public Health, Safety, and Welfare

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Contact Name: 
Stacey A. Ober
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Tuesday, March 6, 2018

To promote and protect the public health, safety, and welfare in the development and deployment of autonomous vehicle technologies, the National Society of Professional Engineers has just released its “Autonomous Vehicles: A Public Regulatory Policy Guide,” providing public policy decision makers, regulators, manufacturers, and others with guidelines to measure the safety readiness of autonomous vehicles under consideration for deployment.

“There has been considerable discussion in both the public and private sectors about AV safety and the need for standards; however, to date, no one has consolidated the many concerns into a single policy document for consideration,” said Tim Austin, P.E., F.NSPE, past president of NSPE and current chair of its Automated Vehicle Task Force. “Given NSPE’s unique role in promoting the competent and ethical practice of engineering across industry, we felt compelled to create a benchmark policy guide to kick start dialogue. Many have felt this policy guide to be overdue.”

With the introduction of autonomous vehicles, automation is poised to become a much larger part of the transportation environment. Much of the discussion to date has addressed the technology, its capabilities, and the perceived public benefits. However, many questions remain unanswered by industry, which has led to uncertainty within the public regulatory environment.

To address this uncertainty, NSPE proposes 12 outcome-based standards in the following areas as a starting point for adopting requirements that protect public safety:

  1. Risk assessment
  2. Ethics compliance disclosure
  3. Self-sufficiency
  4. Accountability
  5. Third-party verification
  6. Redundancy
  7. Map standardization
  8. Security
  9. Training/operational licensing
  10. Maintain manual controls
  11. Safety features
  12. Vehicle-to-vehicle connectivity

“Our hope is that both public and private interests can start collaborating more closely to facilitate successful and safe implementation of AV technology for the benefit of the public as a whole,” said Austin.

Recognizing the promise of autonomous vehicles, NSPE has been a leading advocate on the need to place the public health, safety, and welfare first, and require a licensed professional engineer to play a key role in the development, testing, and safety certification of autonomous vehicles. Read more on the new policy guide and NSPE’s lengthy involvement in the discussion.

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The National Society of Professional Engineers is a member-centric, nimble, future-focused, and responsive organization, serving as the recognized voice and advocate of licensed Professional Engineers. Through education, licensure advocacy, leadership training, multidisciplinary networking, and outreach, NSPE enhances the image of its members and their ability to ethically and professionally practice engineering. Founded in 1934, NSPE serves more than 31,000 members and the public through 52 state and territorial societies and over 400 chapters. For more information, please visit