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Federal Automated Vehicles Policy: Frequently Asked Questions

Federal Automated Vehicles Policy: Frequently Asked Questions

Today, Secretary Foxx announced USDOT’s Federal Automated Vehicles Policy – new guidance that establishes a framework for the safe, effective incorporation of automated vehicle technology.

We’ve developed this FAQ along with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to address some common questions about the Policy and automated vehicles (AVs) in general.

Picture of Secretary Foxx at AV event

How is this making the roads safer?

In 2015, 35,092 people died in traffic crashes; 2.4 million people were injured. Ninety-four percent of crashes are caused in some way by human choice or error. Ultimately, automation features in vehicles could prevent many of the crashes that are caused by unsafe driving, potentially saving tens of thousands of lives each year. 

How soon can I get a car with self-driving technology?

If you have a new car today, you might already have a lower level of life-saving automated technology working for you. For instance, some automated aspects –such as automatic emergency braking and electronic stability control – may be found in cars you may already drive.

Higher levels of automation are forthcoming. A number of companies have announced advancements in automated vehicle production and some expect to deploy self-driving vehicles – operating in certain scenarios –  by the beginning of the next decade.

What if I want to drive?

This guidance considers all levels of automated vehicles. Manufacturers are looking at options to build vehicles that may function in both driverless and human-piloted modes.

Are all automated vehicles the same?

Levels of automation vary, and each manufacturer of this technology may approach these levels differently.  The Policy adopts the standard industry definitions for levels of automation, as established by SAE International, a global association of engineers and technical experts. To learn more, visit SAE.org.

Will drivers need any sort of training?

This guidance informs a state model approach, which includes a framework for state-level education on the operation of automated vehicles on the road. The Policy envisions cooperation among USDOT, states, vehicle manufacturers, and other industry actors to ensure that drivers receive proper education and training about automated technologies.

Does our country’s infrastructure have to change to accommodate this new technology?

Currently, manufacturers are designing AVs with existing infrastructure in mind. Going forward, communities will likely reconsider how they design their infrastructure to take full advantage of the potential for AVs to increase safety, reduce congestion, decrease air pollution, save energy, and generate other positive effects.

Through initiatives like the Smart City Challenge, USDOT is encouraging communities to develop forward-thinking plans to incorporate new technologies, including AVs, into their roadways, transit systems, and other transportation infrastructure.

What are other countries doing to regulate this type of technology?

Currently, no other country has developed regulations for highly automated vehicles.  The United States is the first country to publish comprehensive guidance on these technologies. 

I have more questions or feedback about USDOT’s AV Policy. Can I submit them?

We want to hear from you! See our Federal Register notice for instructions on submitting comments on the Policy.

Stay tuned to the Fast Lane and the USDOT Briefing Room for updates on our public outreach efforts regarding AV policy and guidance. Follow us on social media and sign up for our email list to make sure you get the latest news.

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I am happy to see the NHTSA promoting the safe, regulated advancement and implementation of automated vehicle systems. One area I hope to be receiving due attention is security of automated systems. Too often in the past, security of advanced systems has followed too long after malicious hackers and pranksters had already exploited wide open networks, that should have been secured from the start.
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