Automakers to NHTSA on self-driving cars: slow down

It is almost ironic. After Obama's State of the Union address early this year, the government has committed itself to kickstart the nation's journey towards self-driving cars, almost in start contrast to the uncertainty looming over law makers' and authorities' heads over those driverless vehicles. Now, however, a global group of car makers are advising the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to take things slowly and ease up on the now aggressive push to write up regulations that would prove to be actually harmful to the industry in the long run.

Next to smart glasses and drones, self-driving cars are probably one of the biggest new headaches facing the US government. Not so much because of the dangers they pose per se but because the country's automotive laws and regulations are ill-equipped to deal with these automated cars. Car makers who have a foot inside this budding technology bemoaned the lack of national regulations on self-driving cars, as each state would have its own set of rules that made development and testing harder to perform uniformly across the country.

Their prayers may have been answered when Obama publicly endorsed self-driving cars as a major push for the government. This has led the NHTSA to promise to develop such guidelines as soon as possible, within six months in fact. That, however, might be a two-edged sword and some car makers, represented by the Association of Global Automakers, are advising the agency not to rush those guiding rules.

At the first of two public hearings held by the NHTSA, Association safety manager Paul Scullion said that the government should not bind itself to "self-imposed deadlines", in this case a July deadline, instead of a more thoughtful policy process. The suggestion was to incrementally develop the guidelines instead of rushing it for the remaining two months.

NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind, however, countered that there are already a lot of self-driving technologies on the road today, mostly in the form of driver assistance or autopilot features. If the agencies doesn't act quickly, car makers will just put out more and more features without the benefit of strong guidelines.

Other speakers in the hearing also raised concerns on whether self-driving cars are ready for public roads, citing the inability to navigate snowy roads or even the dangers of being used as drone-style weapons. Another public hearing is scheduled later this month on the 27th.

SOURCE: Reuters