The NHTSA and the FHWA Issue Requests for Comments / Information to Identify Regulatory Barriers to Introducing Automated Driving Systems
On January 18, 2018 in Federal Register Vol. 83 Number 12 the NHTSA Request for Comment (RFC) and the FHWA Request for Information (RFI) published Docket Nos. NHTSA–2018–0009 (FR 2018-00671) and FHWA-2017-0049 (FR 2018-00784). The NHTSA requests stakeholders to identify any potential regulatory barriers in the existing Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) to the marketplace introduction of ADSs and certain unconventional interior designs (no driver controls). The FHWA invites the public to provide comments to a range of issues related to assessing the infrastructure requirements, standards, operating practices and efficient operations of ADSs.
The absence of a human driver poses potential barriers to testing, compliance certification and compliance verification. Many of the FMVSS refer to the driver or driver's seating position in specifying where various vehicle features and systems need to be located. The compliance test procedure of some FMVSS depend on the presence of such things as a human test driver who can follow instructions on test driving maneuvers or a steering wheel that can be used by an automated steering machine. In all cases, the NHTSA's goal is to ensure the maintenance of currently required levels of safety performance. Comments received will be used to aid the NHTSA in setting research priorities.
NHTSA research in close collaboration with critical stakeholders will identify alternative new vehicle designs, evaluation processes and associated tools, and alternative compliance certification approaches. This research project started at the beginning of FY2018 and is expected to develop robust alternative approaches within the next 12 months. The results of this research will be made public after the completion of the project.
Specific questions included in the NHTSA RFC include:
Barriers to Testing, Certification and Compliance Verification
- What are the different categories of barriers that the FMVSS potentially create to the testing, certification and compliance verification of a new ADS vehicle lacking manual driving controls?
- Provide comments on the statement made in NHTSA's February 2016 letter of interpretation to Google, that if a FMVSS lacks a test procedure that is suitable for the NHTSA's use in verifying a manufacturer's certification of compliance, the manufacturer cannot validly certify the compliance of its vehicles with that provision.
- Do you agree (or disagree) that the FMVSS provisions identified in the Volpe report or Google letter as posing barriers to testing and certification are, in fact, barriers?
- Do you think there are FMVSS provisions that pose barriers to testing and certification of innovative new vehicle designs, but were not covered in the Volpe report or Google letter?
- Are there ways to solve the problems that may be posed by any of these FMVSS provisions without conducting additional research?
- Similarly, are there ways to solve the problems that may be posed by any of these FMVSS provisions without rulemaking?
- In contrast, if a commenter believes that legislation might be necessary to enable NHTSA to remove a barrier identified by the commenter, please explain why and please identify the specific existing law that the commenter thinks should be changed and describe how it should be changed.
- Many FMVSS contain test procedures that are based on the assumed presence of a human driver, and will therefore likely need to be amended. How should these be handled?
- What research would be necessary to determine how to instruct a vehicle with ADSs but without manual means of control to follow a driving test procedure?
- In lieu of the approaches suggested in questions above, is there an alternative means of demonstrating equivalent level of safety that is reliable, objective and practicable?
- For FMVSS that include test procedures that assume a human driver is seated in a certain seating position should NHTSA simply amend the FMVSS to require, that "driver's seat" requirements apply to any front seating position?
- A variety of FMVSS require safety-related dashboard telltales and other displays to be visible to a human driver and controls to be within reach of that driver. Is there a safety need for this requirement in vehicles without manual driving controls?
- What should NHTSA research look like for evaluating whether there is any safety need for the occupants of fully-self-driving vehicles to continue to have any access to any of the non-driving controls in a vehicle without manual driving controls?
- How should research be conducted to determine whether there is a safety need for the occupants of vehicles with ADSs but without manual driving controls to be able to see to the side and behind those vehicles using mirrors or cameras?
- Do the FMVSSs create testing and certification issues for vehicles with ADSs other than those discussed above (e.g., FMVSS No. 108 - Lamps, reflective devices, and associated equipment - could potentially pose obstacles to certifying the compliance of a vehicle that uses exterior lighting and messaging, through words or symbols, to communicate to nearby pedestrians, cyclists and motorists)?
- If occupants of vehicles with ADSs, especially those without manual driving controls, are less likely to sit in what is now called the driver's seating position or are less likely to sit in seats that are facing forward, how should these factors affect existing requirements for crashworthiness safety features?
- If vehicles with ADSs have emergency controls that can be accessed through unconventional means, such as a smart phone or multi-purpose display and have unconventional interiors, how should the Agency address those controls?
- Are there any specific regulatory barriers related to small businesses that NHTSA should consider?
Research Needed to Address Those Barriers and NHTSA's Role in Conducting the Research
- For issues about FMVSS barriers that NHTSA needs research to resolve, do commenters believe that there are specific items that would be better addressed through research by outside stakeholders, such as industry or research organizations, instead of by NHTSA itself?
- How should the agency prioritize its research and any follow-on rulemakings to remove the barriers to testing and certification?
- Correcting barriers associated with the track testing of motor vehicles will be particularly challenging (e.g., FMVSS 126, human-operable service brake). How should that research be conducted?
- Are there industry standards, existing or in development, that may be suitable for incorporation by reference by NHTSA in accordance with the standards provisions of the National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act of 1995 and Office of Management and Budget Circular A–119, "Federal Participation in the Development and Use of Voluntary Consensus Standards and Conformity Assessment Activities?"
The FHWA is interested in hearing from the public, including stakeholders (e.g., State and local agencies, vehicle manufacturing industry, road hardware and intelligent transportation systems industry, related associations, transportation advocates, ADS hardware and software platform developers, etc.), on a range of issues related to assessing the infrastructure requirements and standards that may be necessary for enabling safe and efficient operations of ADS. FHWA seeks comments on planning, development, maintenance, and operations of the roadway infrastructure necessary for supporting ADS, including any information detailing the costs associated with implementation.
Specific questions included in the FHWA RFI include:
- What roadway characteristics are important for influencing the safety, efficiency, and performance of ADS?
- What challenges do non-uniform traffic control devices present for ADS technologies and how does this affect the costs of ADS systems?
- How does the state of good repair (e.g., pavement and road markings quality) impact ADS, including technology or safety costs, if at all?
- How should FHWA engage with industry and automation technology developers to understand potential infrastructure requirements?
- What is the role of digital infrastructure and data in enabling needed information exchange between ADS and roadside infrastructure? What type of infrastructure and operations data would help accelerate safe and efficient deployment of the ADS on our Nation's public roadways to facilitate nationwide interoperability while still maximizing flexibility, cost effectiveness and threats to cybersecurity or privacy?
- What concerns do State and local agencies have regarding infrastructure investment and planning for ADS, given the level of uncertainty around the timing and development of this technology? How should FHWA engage with its State and local partners?
- Are there existing activities and research in the area of assessing infrastructure-ADS interface needs and/or associated standards?
- What are the priority issues that road owners and operators need to consider in terms of infrastructure requirements, modifications, investment, and planning, to accommodate integration of ADS and to derive maximum system efficiency benefits from ADS additional capabilities?
- What variable information or data would ADS benefit from obtaining and how should that data be best obtained?
- What issues do road owners and operators need to consider in terms of infrastructure modifications and traffic operations as they encounter a mixed vehicle fleet during the transition period to a potentially fully automated fleet? What are likely the most significant impacts of ADS on other motorized and non-motorized users of public roadways?
Written comments must be filed by March 5, 2018.