Automakers and futurists have long been saying that soon, people and cargo will be transported in driverless motor vehicles. The technology has largely been developed, but the big questions remained: what safety and reliability standards will these vehicles be required to meet in order to share the road with traffic? Will they operate in fully autonomous mode without a human driver as backup?
In September, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) took steps toward working out those issues. The agency announced an official policy that will help establish the safety requirements for this technology, and regulate its use.
The DOT announcement describes this initiative as a four-part program. The four elements are as follows:
- Vehicle performance guidelines with a 15-point safety assessment that sets expectations for autonomous vehicle manufacturers
- A regulatory model to help define federal and state responsibilities, and build a framework of nationwide laws for operating these vehicles
- Options for federal authorities to consider in how to expedite the safe introduction of self-driving vehicles into the marketplace
- A review of new tools and legal authority the government may need as this technology grows and becomes widely adopted.
Washington has expressed enthusiasm for this innovation in terms of its potential to prevent accidents.
“Ninety-four percent of crashes on U.S. roadways are caused by human choice or error,” said National Highway Transportation Safety Agency (NHTSA) Administrator Dr. Mark Rosekind in the September 20th DOT bulletin. “We are moving forward on the safe deployment of automated technologies because of the enormous promise they hold to address the overwhelming majority of crashes and save lives.”
Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx explained that the initiative has been crafted in response to requests from both public and private organizations for guidelines in how to proceed with development and regulation of autonomous vehicle technology.
Some companies are not waiting for direction from the government. Daimler unveiled its Freightliner Inspiration Truck last year and Uber put its driverless cargo truck, Otto, to the test this week on Colorado highways. Both companies spoke about their technologies earlier this month at the American Trucking Associations (ATA) Management Conference and Exhibition (MCE) in Las Vegas, Nevada. Sean Waters, Director of Compliance and Regulatory Affairs at Daimler Trucks North America, assured the audience that the driver is still in control of the Inspiration truck. Yet autonomous technology as a whole is still in its early days. Together with the industry, there are many questions that need answers, including liability in case of an accident and ownership of data, in order for companies like Daimler and Uber to launch their trucks to the market.
As the autonomous driving technology discussion continues, the transportation industry offers other technology that promotes safe driving habits. GPS fleet management systems with driver safety tools allow fleet managers to measure driver risk. With interactive mapping features, users can replay unsafe events on the road and view metrics indicating speed and G-force. Monitoring and tracking driver behavior can help fleet managers better train and coach their employees to operate vehicles in accordance with company policies and road laws.
To learn more about GPS fleet management systems with driver safety tools, click here for a free demo.