Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, announced A Vision for Safety: 2.0 calls for industry, state and local governments, safety and mobility advocates and the public to lay the path for the deployment of automated vehicles and technologies. NHTSA invites public comment on the voluntary guidance and additional ways to improve its usefulness.
The new Federal autonomous vehicle policy released today poses a threat to highway safety, Consumer Watchdog warned and the nonpartisan nonprofit group called for the enactment of enforceable Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards specifically covering self-driving cars.
The new policy emphasizes the voluntary nature of the new federal guidelines, warns Consumer Watchdog’s John Simpson
“This isn’t a vision for safety,” said John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project Director. “It’s a roadmap that allows manufacturers to do whatever they want, wherever and whenever they want, turning our roads into private laboratories for robot cars with no regard for our safety.”
The new Department of Transportation and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration policy focuses only on voluntary guidance for Level 3, Level 4 and Level 5 self-driving cars, not Level 2 technology where only some driving technology is automated, Consumer Watchdog noted.
“This a serious short-coming and ignores the fact that Level 2 technology, like Tesla’s Autopilot, has killed people,” said Simpson. “How the human driver monitors and interacts with Level 2 technologies is potentially life threatening and requires Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.”
The DOT claims the revised voluntary policy “incorporates feedback received through public comments.”
“This simply isn’t true,” Simpson said. “There hasn’t been a NHTSA public hearing on autonomous vehicle policy since President Trump was inaugurated and the highly touted DOT Advisory Committee on Automation in Transportation (ACAT) has not even met and has been completely ignored by Trump’s appointees.”
The new robot car guidelines raise questions for state regulators, Consumer Watchdog said. For example, proposed self-driving rules in California mandate that manufacturers would have to file a federal safety assessment with NHTSA. The new guidance, however, says states should not codify any portion of the voluntary guidance in their regulations.
“The DOT and NHTSA ‘Vision for Safety 2.0’ tells auto manufacturers to think about a few things involving robot cars and then do whatever they want,” said Simpson.
Simpson comments were ammended after the National Transportation Safety Board’s found that Tesla’s Autopilot shares the blame for a fatal crash with a truck in Florida last year underscores the need for Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards covering automated driver assistance technologies.
The NTSB’s findings came an hour before the Department of Transportation and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released new autonomous vehicle guidance, “A Vision for Safety 2.0,” which explicitly ignored so-called Level 2 technologies like Autopilot.
At the DOT-NHTSA news conference in Ann Arbor, MI, announcing the new federal voluntary self-driving guidelines a NHTSA spokesman said the agency hadn’t yet reviewed the NTSB findings.
“NHTSA should have been a partner with the NTSB in this investigation, but they were not,” said John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project Director. “Instead they’re asleep at the wheel and didn’t even bother to address Level 2 technologies in their new voluntary guidance.”
NTSB chair Robert Sumwalt said the Tesla’s “operational limitations played a major role in this collision.” The board unanimously recommended that automakers be required to limit the use of partially self-driving technology by ensuring that drivers are actively engaged in driving at all times. The board concluded that Tesla’s method of making sure the driver’s hands are periodically on the wheel is not enough. A possible solution could be a camera that tracks eye movement.
“Tesla CEO Elon Musk played an active role in leading drivers to believe Autopilot was more capable of self-driving than was the case,” said Simpson. “There were widely viewed videos of both him and his wife behind the wheel and waving their arms, clearly leaving the impression the car did everything. He should be held accountable for his deadly hype.”
The federal guidance also state, “Vehicle Cybersecurity Entities are encouraged to follow a robust product development process based on a systems engineering approach to minimize risks to safety, including those due to cybersecurity threats and vulnerabilities.”
“This encourages manufacturers to do security by design in accordance with Karamba’s approach. The new federal guidance emphasizes software development, verification and validation, but after all that, you still have bugs in software,” said Ami Dotan, CEO and co-founder of Karamba Security. “By automatically hardening the controllers with Karamba’s technology as part of the software release process, you make sure that even when hackers identify hidden security bugs, those bugs are not exploitable. This approach strengthens the concept that the NHTSA and U.S. DOT recommend the industry comply with— which is to remove as many security vulnerabilities as possible and ensure that the vulnerabilities that still remain will not be leveraged by the hackers, risking consumer safety.”
Doug Davis, SVP and GM of Intel’s Automated Driving Group in a news release stated
“Self-driving technology is advancing quickly, and Intel is playing a leading role. To get ready for our autonomous future, we need to prepare our roads, cities, towns, and, more importantly, tomorrow’s passengers. A policy framework that prioritizes safety, innovation and U.S. leadership will play a critical role. To this end, I applaud the leadership of Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao for her focused work to revise the nation¹s Automated Vehicle Guidelines for the safe testing and deployment of self-driving vehicles.“