Much work needs to be done before laws and regulations no longer block driverless' rollout in the US, Rob Csongor, vice president and general manager of Nvidia's automotive division, said today during a US Senate committee hearing.
Speaking before the US Senate's Commerce, Science, and Transportation committee called "Paving the Way for Self-Driving Vehicles," Csongor echoed industry sentiment as he described how different state laws have impeded driverless vehicle tests. He called for federal rules and regulations to supersede the patchwork of different state laws in effect to pave the way for nation-wide tests, and eventually, the timely commercial rollout of advanced driverless cars.
However, current laws do not allow for road tests in all 50 US states, which are required before Level 3 and more-advanced self-driving cars can see launch. Federal legislation allowing for fleet testing across all states with their diverse driving conditions is critical, Csongor said.
We believe new regulations are necessary. But clearly, there are opportunities to streamline development and testing. Ideally, we would be able to test cars and to collect diverse data from any state. The patchwork of different regulations across different regions hampers development and progress. It would be enormously beneficial to have a unified set of regulations across all states. It would also be constructive to ensure the standards for compliance are set correctly. The bar we are comparing against is a human driver. A system that is significantly safer than a human driver can save lives once deployed. Conversely, unrealistic compliance targets runs the risk of costing lives. And finally, the deployment of fleet on real roads collecting lots of data is the path to achieving safety for the entire fleet.
Yesterday, three bi-partisan senators introduced a draft for legislation for driverless cars ahead of today's Senate committee hearing.
US Senators Gary Peters (D-Mich.), John Thune (R-S.D.), and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) yesterday released principles for bipartisan legislation on self-driving vehicles that could lay the groundwork for the "first-ever changes in federal law" for driverless cars, Thune said in a statement.
"Self-driving vehicle technology will have a transformational impact on highway safety," said Thune, who chairs the full committee. "Working on a bipartisan basis, we continue to make progress in writing what we expect will become the first ever changes in federal law helping usher in this new transportation era. These principles underscore our commitment to prioritizing safety, fixing outdated rules, and clarifying the role of federal and state governments."
Under the existing guidelines drafted by the US Department of Transportation during the President Obama era, a 15-point "safety assessment" details voluntary guidelines to precede "rule making" and enforcement policies, including the threat of recalls.
Meanwhile, the development of driverless transportation in the US, where Waymo, General Motors, Ford, Tesla, and other players are based, hangs largely in the balance pending future legislation. Heavy-handed guidelines President Trump's DOT might draft or new laws that do little to change the status quo by largely leaving it up to the US states for driverless laws and regulations would likely continue to stifle driverless development.