Federal safety regulators are delaying work on crafting guidelines for the testing and operation of autonomous vehicles on the nation's roads and pushing the issue back to states.
 - Photo via Ottojula/Wikimedia.

Federal safety regulators are delaying work on crafting guidelines for the testing and operation of autonomous vehicles on the nation's roads and pushing the issue back to states.

Photo via Ottojula/Wikimedia.

As regulators, public safety advocates and automakers grapple with how to create a federal legal framework for the deployment of autonomous vehicles, the nation's top auto safety official has said it's premature to regulate self-driving vehicles.

"At this point the technology is so nascent I don't think it is appropriate today to regulate this technology," Heidi King, deputy administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), told Bloomberg. "It's not there yet, but each and every day we are open to identifying when the time is right."

While the agency appears to be taking a hands-off approach to creating rules for self-driving vehicles, the U.S. Transportation Department and several other stakeholders are searching for solutions that move regulatory control away from the states and place it at the federal level with an agreed upon set of standards.

A newly-released summary of March meetings involving the U.S. Transportation Department along with industry, labor and advocacy groups spotlights the social, safety and legal challenges surrounding the deployment of autonomous vehicles for public use, according to a report in Insurance Journal.

The report notes that, according to the Transportation Department, policymakers will have to come to grips with solutions for "10 to 15 key questions."

These include how to integrate autonomous vehicles with public safety officials; defining requirements around privacy or cyber security; and how to address concerns about self-driving vehicles from the disabled and senior communities, reports Insurance Journal.

In addition, experts in the March meeting noted that autonomous vehicles have the ability to self-report crashes and ultimately, provide data that could improve response to emergency situations. Determining whether or not autonomous vehicles will be mandated to report that data is another issue that remains unresolved.

While automakers such as Waymo and General Motors are currently testing self-driving vehicles and gearing up to deploy them on public roads, the process of developing a federal legal framework for these vehicles is sluggish at best.

Moreover, after an Uber self-driving car struck and killed a pedestrian in March, Congress has stalled legislation that would smooth the way for the deployment of autonomous vehicles without human safety operators.


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