Yesterday the U.S. government announced a new round of autonomous vehicle (AV) guidelines at CES 2020 called AV 4.0. Those new guidelines quickly upset safety advocates, however, as they merely “promote voluntary consensus standards.”
The Associated Press reported that the proposed AV 4.0 guidelines were announced by Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, who said that “It recognizes the value of private sector leadership in AV research, development and integration."
Chao also said the new guidelines would unify work on AVs across 38 federal departments and agencies and establish a list of government principles. According to the AP, those principles include (cyber)security, privacy, protecting users and communities, promoting efficient markets by protecting intellectual property and modernizing regulations, and facilitating coordinated standards and policies. The document also says the government will enforce existing laws to ensure companies don’t make deceptive claims about the capabilities or limitations of AV technology.
However, some said the guidelines would fall short of expectations in areas such as innovation and safety. This includes auto safety advocates such as the National Transportation Safety Board, which investigates crashes and makes safety recommendations. The NTSB already condemned a lack of regulation for testing AVs. On the other hand, the agency says it doesn’t want to stay in the way of innovation.
Specifically, the guidelines lack details on how the government would enforce them or accomplish its goals. Instead, the U.S. government “will promote voluntary consensus standards,” without specifying what those standards should be. The document states: “Voluntary consensus standards can be validated by testing protocols, are supported by private sector conformity assessment schemes, and offer flexibility and responsiveness to the rapid pace of innovation.”
Taking a step back, Mobileye has previously criticized the U.S.’s lack of autonomous vehicle regulations. Mobileye CEO Amnon Shashua has explained that this creates difficulties with dealing with accidents, for example. That's probably at least partly why the company doesn't want to rush it to start up its Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) plans in the U.S., as is evidenced by its timeline to begin its robotaxi activities in 2023--a year later than the company’s current plans for Israel, France, China and South Korea. (More details on its plans for South Korea were announced at CES.)
The guidelines will be published in the Federal Register, followed by a public comment period.