NHTSA and the U.S. DOT Update Voluntary Guidance Policy for Automated Vehicles
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) announced on September 15, 2017 (Federal Register Vol. 82 Number 178; Docket No. NHTSA–2017–0082) the availability of the NHTSA's new voluntary guidance–Automated Driving Systems: A Vision for Safety. The NHTSA also formalized a request for comments and scheduled a public meeting to get feedback on the updated document (F.R. Vol. 82 Number 205). This new voluntary guidance is the result of public comments (160 unique submissions) received on the Federal Automated Vehicles Policy (FAVP) released in September 2016. The NHTSA intends to continue to revise and refine the guidance periodically to reflect continued public input, experience, research, and innovation, and will address significant comments in preparing future iterations of the guidance.
This updated policy framework is intended to clarify the guidance process for the safe deployment of automated vehicles by encouraging new entrants and ideas that deliver safer vehicles; making regulatory processes more nimble and revise unnecessary design elements from safety self-assessment to help match the pace of private sector innovation; and supporting industry innovation and encouraging open communication with the public and with stakeholders. It also clarifies the Federal and State roles as Automated Driving Systems (ADSs) evolve.
Section 1 of the updated document supports the automotive industry and other key stakeholders as they consider and design best practices for the testing and safe deployment of ADSs (SAE Automation Levels 3 through 5 - Conditional, High, and Full Automation Systems). The document addresses these 12 priority safety design elements for consideration: System Safety; Operational Design Domain; Object and Event Detection and Response; Fallback (Minimal Risk Condition); Validation Methods; Human Machine Interface; Vehicle Cybersecurity; Crashworthiness; Post-crash ADS Behavior; Data Recording; Consumer Education and Training; and Federal, State, and Local Laws.
Section 2 of the updated document clarifies and delineates Federal and State roles for the regulation of ADSs. The NHTSA remains responsible for regulating the safety design and performance aspects of motor vehicles and motor vehicle equipment; States continue to be responsible for regulating the human driver and vehicle operations.
Entities are encouraged to have a self-documented assessment process for each safety element in the design of their systems. Due to the rapid evolution of ADSs, no single standard exists for a safety design element. Each entity is free to be creative and innovative when developing the best method for its system to appropriately mitigate the safety risks associated with their approach. They are encouraged to adopt voluntary guidance, best practices, design principles, and standards developed by established and accredited standards-developing organizations such as the International Standards Organization (ISO) and SAE International, as well as standards and processes available from other industries.
The voluntary guidance applies to motor vehicles and motor vehicle equipment under the NHTSA's jurisdiction, including low-speed vehicles, motorcycles, passenger vehicles, medium duty vehicles, and heavy-duty commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) such as large trucks and buses. Interstate motor carrier operations and CMV drivers fall under the jurisdiction of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Authority (FMCSA) and are not within the scope of the voluntary guidance. Entities are encouraged to define and document the Operational Design Domain (ODD) for each ADS on their vehicle(s) as tested or deployed for use on public roadways. The assessment process and procedure used for testing and validation of ADS functionality needs to be documented. At a minimum the following information is needed to define each ADS's capability limits/boundaries: roadway types, geographic areas, speed range, environmental conditions and other domain constraints.
Object and Event Detection and Response (OEDR) is the detection by the driver or ADS of any circumstance that is relevant to the immediate driving task, and the implementation of the appropriate driver or system response to such circumstance. When operating within its ODD, an ADS's OEDR functions are expected to be able to detect and respond to other vehicles (in and out of its travel path), pedestrians, bicyclists, animals, and objects that could affect safe operation of the vehicle. Entities are encouraged to have a documented process for transitioning to a minimal risk condition when a problem is encountered or the ADS cannot operate safely. ADSs should be able to notify the human driver of such events in a way that enables the driver to regain proper control of the vehicle or allows the ADS to return to a minimal risk condition independently.
Prior to on-road testing, entities are encouraged to consider the extent to which simulation and track testing may be necessary. They may perform the testing, or it could be performed by an independent third party. Entities are also encouraged to consider and document a process for the assessment, testing, and validation of the vehicle's Human Machine Interface (HMI) design. In vehicles where an ADS may be intended to operate without a human driver or even any human occupant, the remote dispatcher or central control authority, if such an entity exists, should be able to know the status of the ADS at all times.
The DOT involvement includes safety, evaluation, planning, and maintenance of the Nation's infrastructure through FHWA as well as regulation of the safe operation of interstate motor carriers and commercial vehicle drivers, along with registration and insurance requirements through the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). States are urged to continue to work with the FHWA and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) to support uniformity and consensus in infrastructure standards setting. This will support the safe operation of ADSs and ensure the safety of human drivers, who will continue to operate vehicles on the roads for years to come.
The NHTSA responsibilities include: setting Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSSs), enforcing compliance with FMVSSs, investigating and managing the recall and remedy of non-compliances and safety-related motor vehicle defects nationwide, communicating with and educating the public about motor vehicle safety issues. The State responsibilities include licensing human drivers and registering motor vehicles in their jurisdictions, enacting and enforcing traffic laws and regulations, conducting safety inspections where States choose to do so and regulating motor vehicle insurance and liability.
The date for the public meeting is November 6, 2017 at 9 AM (registration required by November 1st) and written comments must be filed by November 14, 2017.