On September 21, 2016, the federal government, through the National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration (NHTSA), released “Federal Automated Vehicles Policy: Accelerating the Next Revolution in Roadway Safety,” which is the first attempt to provide guidance to the auto industry about the issues inherent in the implementation of autonomous vehicles on public roadways.

In the message from Secretary Anthony R. Foxx, he states “Will [autonomous vehicles] disrupt the nature of privacy and security?” According to Foxx, the Policy is not the last word on the subject, which will require longer and more thorough dialogue with stakeholders. But its intention is to “establish a foundation and a framework upon which future Agency action will occur.” Foxx said the Agency is seeking public comment on the Policy and is

conducting public outreach to seek input. The Agency intends to obtain the guidance in order to provide another update to the Policy within a year, or sooner if appropriate.

The Policy, which is 116 pages long, discusses:

  • Vehicle Performance Guidance for Automated Vehicles, which outlines best practices “for the safe pre-deployment design, development and testing of autonomous vehicles prior to commercial sale or operation on public roads”
  • Model State Policy, including licensing and registration, traffic laws and enforcement, motor vehicle insurance and liability regimes
  • NHTSA Current Regulatory Tools, including interpretations, exemptions, notice-and-comment rulemaking, and defects and enforcement authority
  • New Tools and Authorities, including” identifying potential new tools, authorities and regulatory structures that could aid the safe and appropriately expeditious deployment of new technologies by enabling the Agency to be more nimble and flexible.”

The comment period on the new Policy is open for 60 days, or until November 14, 2016.