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NHTSA seeks to reduce autonomous vehicle regulations

Oklahoma residents may be aware that the U.S. Department of Transportation launched an initiative in October 2016 with the goal of eliminating traffic accident deaths around the country within 30 years. The Road to Zero Coalition is made up of the Federal Highway Administration, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the nonprofit National Safety Council, and much of its efforts will be focused on facilitating the development of autonomous vehicle technology.

Companies including General Motors, Ford and Google say that current automobile safety standards are hampering their efforts to develop self-driving systems and delaying the introduction of potentially life-saving technology, and they have called for the rules to be revisited and revised. The NHTSA voiced support for these calls in a report released on Oct. 27, which vows to address the regulatory hurdles faced by autonomous vehicle manufacturers.

The agency is especially interested in regulations that were written with human drivers in mind that fully autonomous cars could never meet. Congress has also taken an interest in the issue, and measures dealing with self-driving vehicles have been advanced in both the Senate and the House. Both legislative proposals would allow NHTSA to issue regulatory exemptions to companies involved in autonomous vehicle development.

The semi-autonomous automobile systems that are currently available may not yet be able to eliminate human error altogether, but they can make it far more difficult for negligent drivers to avoid being held responsible for their reckless behavior. Modern vehicle data recorders can tell accident investigators if motorists exceeded speed limits or failed to brake before they crashed, and this information could be used by personal injury attorneys to establish liability in car accident lawsuits.

Source: The National Highway Traffic-Safety Administration, "U.S. DOT, National Safety Council Launch 'Road to Zero' Coalition to End Roadway Fatalities", Oct. 3, 2016

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