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A Vision for Safety: DOT’s new automated vehicle policy guidance

Remarks Prepared for Delivery by
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao
A Vision for Safety 2.0
Autonomous Vehicle Summit
MCity, Michigan
Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Thank you.

I am so pleased to be here for the launch of the Department’s new automated vehicle policy guidance: A Vision for Safety 2.0.   Let me thank University of Michigan President Dr. Mark Schlissel, and Professor Hui Peng, MCity Director, for offering this venue for the Department’s AV Summit.  And let me also thank Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley; Mitch Bainwol, President and CEO of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers; Mark Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind; and, Cong. Debbie Dingell for joining us today. 

Before we begin, I would like to pause for a moment to say our hearts are with all those who endured the onslaught of Hurricane Irma. I have mobilized the men and women of the Department of Transportation to provide whatever assistance necessary to help restore the transportation systems damaged by Hurricane Irma, and Hurricane Harvey as well. Helping each other is a basic American value we all share.

As you know so well, our country is on the verge of one of the most exciting and important innovations in transportation history—the development of Automated Driving Systems (ADS), commonly referred to as automated or self-driving vehicles. 

The future of this innovative new technology is so full of promise.  It’s a future where vehicles increasingly help drivers avoid crashes.  It’s a future where the time spent commuting is dramatically reduced.  And where millions more-- including the elderly and people with disabilities -- gain access to the freedom of the open road.  And, especially important, it’s a future where highway fatalities and injuries are significantly reduced. 

Vehicles today already offer many automated features, including automatic emergency braking, self- parking and advanced cruise control.  But tomorrow’s vehicles will build on these features to develop increasingly automated driving systems.  With each model year, manufacturers will leverage computing power, sensors and cameras to allow vehicles to “see” the world around them more precisely and navigate it more safely.

That’s key because more than 35,000 people perish each year in vehicle crashes. NHTSA research shows that about 94 percent of serious crashes are caused by human error.  So Automated Driving Systems hold the promise of significantly reducing these errors, saving tens of thousands of lives.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has an important role to play in building and shaping this future.  So one of my first actions as Secretary was to direct NHTSA to develop a framework that encourages the safe development, testing and deployment of automated vehicle technology.  

That’s why today, the Department is releasing A Vision for Safety: 2.0 to promote improvements in safety, mobility, and productivity through Automated Driving Systems (ADS).

A Vision for Safety replaces the Federal Automated Vehicle Policy Version 1.0 released in 2016.  It clarifies and incorporates many of the concerns we heard from stakeholders and end users, and is in alignment with legislation currently pending in Congress.  If offers a path forward for the safe deployment of automated vehicles by:

  • encouraging new entrants and ideas that deliver safer vehicles;
  • making Department processes more nimble by creating a flexible framework to help match the pace of private sector innovation;
  • supporting industry innovation and encouraging open communication with the public and with stakeholders; and,
  • identifying Best Practices from around the country and offering technical assistance to state legislatures, which are moving quickly on this issue.

Let me note that Vision for Safety 2.0 is not a static document.  As the technology advances and the Department gathers new information from stakeholders and consumers, we will continue to refine and update the guidance. In fact, DOT and NHTSA are already planning for Version 3.0 in 2018!  Let me also note, however, that NHTSA will continue to exercise its defect, recall, and enforcement authority where appropriate. 

As the title of this new guidance suggests, safety is a primary concern of the Department’s automated vehicle policy. But the benefits of automated vehicle systems extend beyond safety.

American motorists currently spend more than 6.9 billion—yes billion-- hours a year sitting in traffic, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers.

That amounts to more than $300 billion in wasted time and fuel. Reclaiming this time and money will put more money in the taxpayers’ pockets and give them more time with their families.

Automated technology may also give traditionally underserved communities—especially older Americans and people with disabilities—greater access to transportation choices, dramatically improving their quality of life.

The potential for progress in terms of productivity, connectivity and safety is enormous. That’s why it’s critical to expand public knowledge of the benefits of this technology, and to work together to address legitimate consumer concerns about safety, privacy and cybersecurity. As you may know, a recent survey by the American Automobile Association found that 78 percent of U.S. drivers reported feeling afraid to ride in a self-driving vehicle. Only 19 percent said they would trust the vehicle, and 4 percent said they were unsure.   So consumers, ultimately, will decide the future of automated technology, including when and how quickly it arrives.  For those who want to stay current on AV issues, the Department has a webpage on this subject at www. nhtsa.gov/av.

Finally, let me reiterate that emerging technology requires an approach that ensures safety, while encouraging innovation and preserving creativity.  This last point is especially important.  Creativity and innovation are part of the great genius of America—one of its hallmarks.  We must safeguard and nurture this legacy. Our goal at the Department of Transportation is to help usher in this new era of transportation innovation and safety, ensuring that our country remains a global leader in autonomous technology.

So thank you for joining us today, and I look forward to working with you on this important issue.

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Updated: Thursday, September 14, 2017
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