National Highway Traffic Safety (NTHSA) administrator Mark Rosekind said today that the US needs to be more nimble in its legislation for self-driving cars.
“[A slow-moving regulatory climate] will not work for this area,” Rosekind said. “We will have something different in July.”
The technology doesn’t have to be perfect, Rosekind suggested. Instead, he pushed for current tech to be twice as good as human drivers, which it already seems to be. Current US highway deaths are equal to “a 747 crashing every week for a year… it’s unacceptable,” he said.
While the technology for autonomous vehicles is already mostly there, what most fear is the slow-moving regulatory environment that could slow progress and keep self-driving cars off the road for years, even decades. To move the process along, Tesla Motors has even offered up its collected data from more than 50,000 cars sold each year, a step that would provide a dossier on autonomous driving in real-world conditions and could speed the process considerably.
“We’re looking to see what the offer might be,” Rosekind said. “If the offer is there, we’re going for it.”
Google data could prove quite valuable as well. Recent reports suggest that its autonomous car logs more than three million miles (in a simulator) daily, the equivalent of circumnavigating the globe 120 times daily.
The need for federal regulation
The NTHSA’s push for new federal guidelines should ease automakers’ fear that they’ll have to deal with conflicting rules in addition to state-by-state cooperation to enact new legislation.
Currently, 15 states have proposed new laws surrounding self-driving vehicles over the past 12 months, a move that could leave automakers lobbying for support in all 50 states and attempting to navigate tricky, and sometimes conflicting, policy on a statewide level.
Federal guidelines would ease some of these concerns, although states can, and often do, enact legislation that differs from — and supersedes — federal law.
For now though, any move at the federal level is good news as it means the ball is rolling. What comes of this, we’ll have to wait and see, but for now it’s encouraging that the government is willing to try its hand at being more nimble when it comes to creating policy for a fast-moving tech-centric climate.