Speeches and Presentations

Remarks at California DMV Autonomous Vehicles Workshop

Dr. Mark R. Rosekind , NHTSA Administrator

Wednesday, October 19, 2016 | Sacramento, California

Secretary Kelly, Director Shiomoto: Thank you for the invitation to provide testimony to you this morning.

My name is Dr. Mark Rosekind, and I am the Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

On behalf of U.S. Secretary for Transportation Anthony Foxx and my colleagues at NHTSA, we thank you for your team’s consistent hard work and dedication in your efforts to build regulations that promote the safe development and deployment of automated vehicle technologies in the state of California.

I also want to thank you for your team’s partnership over the last year as we have developed the Federal Automated Vehicles Policy, which the Department of Transportation released last month.

For a few minutes I will provide an overview of that Policy. First, to provide context, a few words about why the Department of Transportation has been so intently pressing forward on automated vehicles.

There are two numbers that help tell that story.

The first is 35,092. That is the number of lives lost on America’s roadways in 2015. Every single one of those is a mother or father, a brother or sister, a friend, a coworker. At NHTSA, we make sure that everyone knows that exact number.

The second is 94. That’s the percentage of crashes that can be tied to a human choice or error. And that number represents the awesome potential of automated vehicles.

The Department of Transportation views this as the cusp of a new technological revolution that may transform roadway safety forever.

And the benefits go beyond safety. Not since the switch from horse and buggy to the personal car a century ago have we seen new technology that may fundamentally alter the way people get around on our roads.

These technologies hold enormous promise for providing mobility to millions of Americans without easy access to personal transportation—that includes the elderly and people with disabilities. Automated technologies can help cities increase capacity without pouring a single new truck load of concrete. These vehicles could save energy and cut air pollution, as well.

But at NHTSA in particular, our primary focus is always on how we can save more lives and reduce crashes on our roadways.

And it is against that backdrop that we have put forth the Federal Automated Vehicles Policy.

In January, Secretary Foxx made two important announcements.

First, he announced that President Obama was making a $3.9 billion budget request for automated vehicles research. This is a major commitment from the Administration to advance this technology.

Second, he directed the Department to write a new policy covering four areas. That is the Policy we announced last month, and I will now give you a brief overview of its components.

The first section is the Vehicle Performance Guidance for Automated Vehicles. This is guidance for manufacturers, developers and other organizations and outlines a 15 point “Safety Assessment” for the safe design, development, testing and deployment of highly automated vehicles prior to commercial sale or operation on public roads.

The second section is the Model State Policy. State governments play a critical role in facilitating highly automated vehicles, ensuring they are safely deployed and promoting their life-saving benefits.

The Model State Policy confirms that States retain their traditional responsibilities for vehicle licensing and registration, traffic laws and enforcement, and motor vehicle insurance and liability regimes, while outlining the Federal role for highly automated vehicles.

The policy, following partnership and collaboration with the state of California, American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA) and other individual states and stakeholders, suggests recommended areas for states to consider with a goal of building a consistent, unified national framework of laws to govern self-driving vehicles.

The third section regards NHTSA’s Current Regulatory Tools. This discussion summarizes how NHTSA will use the tools currently at its disposal to promote and expedite the safe development and deployment of highly automated vehicles, such as by interpreting current rules to allow for greater flexibility in design and by providing limited exemptions to allow for testing of nontraditional vehicle designs in a more timely fashion.

The fourth and final section discusses Modern Regulatory Tools, identifying 12 potential new tools, authorities and resources that could aid the safe deployment of new lifesaving technologies by enabling the Agency to be more nimble and flexible.

Today’s governing statutes and regulations were developed before highly automated vehicles were even a remote notion. For that reason, current authorities and tools alone may be insufficient to ensure that highly automated vehicles are introduced safely, and to realize the full safety promise of new technologies. This challenge requires NHTSA to examine whether the ways in which the Agency has addressed safety for the last several decades should be expanded to realize the safety potential of highly automated vehicles over the decades to come.

This policy is the right step at the right time. It is answering a call from industry, state and local governments, safety and mobility advocates and many others to lay a clear path forward for the safe deployment of automated vehicles.

The policy represents a continuation of the new proactive safety approach that we have built at NHTSA under the leadership of Secretary Foxx. For 50 years, our approach has largely been reactive: We prescribe safety standards, and then wait for problems to happen.

The tack we are taking here is different. The 15-point Safety Assessment allows NHTSA to work with automakers and developers on the front end, to ensure that there are sound approaches to safety throughout the entire development process. This is a new approach, and it’s going to take some adjustment for everyone involved. But I am confident that it will help us accomplish two goals: first, to make sure that new technologies are deployed safely; and second, to make sure we don’t get in the way of innovation.

We do not pretend to have every question already answered, and we will continue the conversation with the public about the best way to develop and improve our policy as we learn more and more innovation occurs. The full policy, additional materials, and the portal for public comments can be found at www.nhtsa.gov/AV.

Finally, I would like to reiterate our thanks to the State of California for your hard work on your regulations.

We applaud your open and transparent process, and encourage all stakeholders to engage in that process, by participating today and providing comments on the proposed draft regulations.

What you do in California will be a model for states around the country as they move forward in writing the new rules of the road.

I know from experience: It is exceptionally difficult to strike the right balance, and it is important that we all endeavor to keep our approach nimble and flexible, so we can respond as innovation continues to bring this new technological revolution forward.

When President Obama announced the Federal Automated Vehicles Policy, he wrote, “There are always those who argue that government should stay out of free enterprise entirely, but I think most Americans would agree we still need rules to keep our air and water clean, and our food and medicine safe. That’s the general principle here. What’s more, the quickest way to slam the brakes on innovation is for the public to lose confidence in the safety of new technologies. Both government and industry have a responsibility to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

To that end, the U.S. Department of Transportation and NHTSA continue to be committed to partnering with California as you move forward.

At this time, I would like to hand the floor to NHTSA’s Associate Administrator for Vehicle Safety Research, Nat Beuse, to take a few minutes to dive into the Federal Automated Vehicle Policy a little deeper.

Thank you.