Stakeholders in autonomous vehicle technology are calling for industry and government to come together to create a common framework for safely testing and deploying AVs in the U.S.
During an industry roundtable event held virtually on May 13, safety experts and executives from AV technology companies discussed the importance of lawmakers and federal agencies such as NHTSA working with stakeholders to develop common standards that can speed the deployment of these technologies without stifling innovation.
"We need, first of all, for the public to understand why this is just bigger than saving lives on the road. It will impact everything in our lives, and we need to make sure that the United States is ahead," said Robbie Diamond, CEO of Securing America's Future Energy, the Washington-based group that hosted the event.
"We need a road map, of course, so that companies can do this safely and that people have trust. We need our agencies to step up if Capitol Hill will not," he said.
As of yet, there is no federal AV regulation in the U.S. Instead, NHTSA has been "methodically but slowly revising" the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards to remove any impediments to the development of AVs, according to Kevin Vincent, associate general counsel of Lucid Motors and former chief counsel at NHTSA.
Vincent, citing a paper he wrote outlining a regulatory framework for AVs, said NHTSA should use its authority to adopt industry standards to create federal regulations for these vehicles "as soon as possible."
"If we change NHTSA's enforcement practice to quickly address any new safety risks, we can assure the public that NHTSA is ... properly and immediately correcting with industry any new risks that are created," he said. "That way the public will trust AVs."
Jack Weast, vice president of AV standards at Intel Corp.-owned Mobileye, said the industry needs performance standards that set clear expectations on what is reasonably foreseeable for an AV to assume about the behavior of other road users.
"We don't need to be specifying an insane amount of detail ... but we do have an opportunity to set clear expectations for society on what should the vehicles be able to do and what is reasonably foreseeable or not," Weast said.