Vrooom: New Federal Guidance Should Accelerate Development of Autonomous Cars

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20 September 2016
Donald Light

September 20 was a good day for the development of autonomous cars. The Feds, as embodied by the Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), have issued guidance and principles for the development of autonomous cars.

There are two key takeaways:

  1. By issuing guidance, rather than regulation, the Feds are trying to facilitate, but not control, the technological developments that will lead to street-ready autonomous cars
  2. The guidance makes some common sense delineations between what the federal government should do and what states should do
  • The feds want one national standard for how manufacturers conduct driverless car R&D--following a 15 part safety assessment protocol (covering data recording, system safety, human:machine interface, etc.).
  • The feds want the states to focus on vehicle licensing and registration, traffic laws, and motor vehicle insurance and liability

If actually followed (are you listening California?) the political and regulatory environment should speed the day when a consumer can walk into a dealer, and be driven out by a shiny, brand new autonomous car.

That day will be good for car buyers, for manufacturers, and for society as a whole.

However, for insurers that day will also hasten the decline of auto insurance—per the recent Celent report The End of Auto Insurance: A Scenario or a Prediction.

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