We agree with NHTSA on the pressing need to improve the agency’s and the public’s understanding of automated vehicles and to begin establishing a regulatory framework for them. However, it is also essential to have strong federal standards based on adequate research to protect all drivers, as states are not equipped to do the hard work of determining whether a self-driving car can be safely allowed on public roads, and manufacturers’ incentives may not align with the public interest. To build toward those strong federal standards, and otherwise strengthen the Federal Automated Vehicles Policy, our comments make several recommendations, including:

  • The Vehicle Performance Guidance addresses the right topics, but key aspects should be stronger to protect consumers and permit effective NHTSA oversight;
    • NHTSA should require effective reporting by manufacturers to help the agency receive the safety data it needs to protect consumers;
    • NHTSA should obtain company data on human-machine interface factors and consider a safety standard to verify driver engagement and responsiveness in vehicles with Level 2 or Level 3 automated systems;
    • Federal policy should strongly encourage independent third-party testing and certification of automated driving features;
    • NHTSA should develop a safety standard for cybersecurity, and require full reporting of cybersecurity considerations and vulnerabilities in the interim;
    • NHTSA should convene an expert working group on ethics standards;
  • The model state policy understates the role NHTSA can and should play with regard to state oversight of automated vehicles;
    • States may lack sufficient technical expertise, and should not bear primary responsibility for deciding if automated vehicles are safe for public roads;
    • NHTSA should make stronger recommendations to states regarding their oversight of retailer practices and vehicle damage;
  • NHTSA should use its current regulatory tools to aggressively investigate and take enforcement action on safety-related defects, and to improve crashworthiness; and
  • Modern regulatory tools will be critical to ensure consumer safety, and NHTSA should not hesitate to use them.

Going forward, we strongly urge NHTSA to ensure that the Federal Automated Vehicles Policy is an initial regulatory framework that truly serves as an early step and springboard toward more robust measures. This Policy must be a floor, not a ceiling, for the regulation of automated systems.

For the full comments, click here.