January has been a busy month for the U.S. government in regards to its transportation system and the automotive industry.
The former announced its long-term plans to bolster its plans to propagate vehicle safety initiatives as well as begin a 10-year action to invest in safe vehicle-automation projects.
While speaking at the Automotive News World Congress on January 12, NHTSA administrator Mark Rosekind made a request to the automotive industry, asking for a more proactive approach to vehicle safety in light of the current era of recalls that it is still suffering.
Rosekind further requested that the auto industry and the administrators do their best to cooperate.
“The era of big recall is not a sign of progress. Record civil penalties are not a metric of success,” Rosekind said. “NHTSA is truly successful not when we catch safety violations and hand down penalties, but when we work together with industry to prevent that kind of crisis from ever occurring in the first place.”
Later that day, during his final State of the Union address, President Barack Obama mentioned his intentions to invest in the nation’s transportation system as part of his budget proposal. Days later, on Jan. 14, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx revealed part of that proposal.
“We are on the cusp of a new era in automotive technology with enormous potential to save lives, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and transform mobility for the American people,” Foxx said. “Today’s actions and those we will pursue in the coming months will provide the foundation and the path forward for manufacturers, state officials, and consumers to use new technologies and achieve their full safety potential.”
One key element outlined by Foxx is a 10-year, roughly $4 billion investment to assist in the development of safe vehicle automation, via real-world pilot projects. These projects would involve connected vehicle systems in designated corridors throughout the nation, working alongside “industry leaders” to put in place a common, multistate framework for the connected and automated vehicles to operate.
Saying that autonomous vehicles are now feasible and would have “the potential to save lives,” Foxx also unveiled policy guidance to update NHTSA’s 2013 preliminary policy statement on autonomous vehicles.
“NHTSA is using all of its available tools to accelerate the deployment of technologies that can eliminate 94 percent of fatal crashes involving human error,” Rosekind said. “We will work with state partners toward creating a consistent national policy on these innovations, provide options now and into the future for manufacturers seeking to deploy autonomous vehicles, and keep our safety mission paramount at every stage.”
The Department of Transportation is also committing to the following “milestones” for 2016, as listed by NHTSA below:
- Within six months, NHTSA will work with industry and other stakeholders to develop guidance on the safe deployment and operation of autonomous vehicles, providing a common understanding of the performance characteristics necessary for fully autonomous vehicles and the testing and analysis methods needed to assess them.
- Within six months, NHTSA will work with state partners, the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, and other stakeholders to develop a model state policy on automated vehicles that offers a path to consistent national policy.
- Secretary Foxx encouraged manufacturers to submit rule interpretation requests where appropriate to help enable technology innovation. For example, NHTSA responded to an interpretation request from BMW confirming that the company’s remote self-parking system meets federal safety standards.
- When interpretation authority is not sufficient, Secretary Foxx further encouraged manufacturers to submit requests for use of the agency’s exemption authority to allow the deployment of fully autonomous vehicles. Exemption authority allows NHTSA to enable the deployment of up to 2,500 vehicles for up to two years if the agency determines that an exemption would ease development of new safety features.
- DOT and NHTSA will develop the new tools necessary for this new era of vehicle safety and mobility, and will consider seeking new authorities when they are necessary to ensure that fully autonomous vehicles, including those designed without a human driver in mind, are deployable in large numbers when they are demonstrated to provide an equivalent or higher level of safety than is now available.
Following these announcements, John Bozzella, the president and chief executive officer of Global Automakers, a Washington-based trade association and lobby group for various automotive companies, applauded Foxx’s vehicle safety and autonomy plans.
“Our members’ continue to make substantial investments in automated vehicle research and development,” he said. “This technology promises to bring significant benefits for improving personal mobility, vehicle safety, fuel efficiency, emissions and highway congestion. We are pleased the Agency has announced a plan to develop a model state policy to help remove the roadblocks to innovation that can occur with a patchwork of state legislative and regulatory requirements.
“The way in which policymakers address automated vehicles will have a profound impact on the way this game-changing technology can be tested and deployed, not only in a particular state but nationwide,” he continued. ”It is important that any policy is consistent and balanced so it not only reflects the current state of technology, but also is flexible enough to adapt as our industry continues to innovate.”
Stay tuned to Thursday's Auto Remarketing Today PM as we dive a bit further into other happenings in our nation's capital, including recent safety moves made by consumer advocates as well as a couple of manufacturer's new internal roles created in response to growing safety concerns.