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NHTSA Regulating Autonomous Vehicles

Estimates vary wildly on when, if ever, self-driving cars will become a commonplace sight on American roadways. Some question whether the technology will be viable. Others wonder whether state governments will allow the vehicles. Still others wonder whether consumers will be willing to entrust their safety to software. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will be at the forefront of many of the issues facing autonomous vehicles. The NHTSA is already working on regulations to govern connected and autonomous vehicles. Early regulations focus on park-assist systems and crash warning devices, but the agency is already considering how to ensure the safety and reliability of self-driving cars.

According to surveys, most individuals believe that they are better and safer drivers than any autonomous vehicle could be. More than 60 percent of people surveyed recently indicated that they would make better driving decisions than a computer. Given that the vast majority of car accidents are the result of human error, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is unlikely that an autonomous vehicle with a failure rate greater than a human driver would ever be approved.

The NHTSA will have to decide how much testing is required for an autonomous driving system to be approved. Human error has always been a part of driving. What level of error will be considered acceptable in a computer system? Other issues, including data security, insurance coverage concerns, and more must be addressed before most consumers will consider self-driving cars.

Source: The Truth About Cars, "Local, Federal Officials Begin Work On Connected, Autonomous Vehicle Regulations" by Cameron Miquelon, 5 August 2014

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