Speeches and Presentations

Remarks at Federal Automated Vehicles Policy public workshop

Dr. Mark R. Rosekind , NHTSA Administrator

Monday, December 12, 2016 | Arlington, Virginia

Thank you all for being here today.

At NHTSA, our mission is to save lives on America’s roadways. For 50 years, we have carried out that mission by writing and enforcing strong regulations to make vehicles safer, fighting against drunk driving, building a national consensus about seatbelt use, and so many other efforts that have saved hundreds of thousands of Americans.

But we have far more work to do. And that work can be measured by some alarming numbers.

In 2015, we lost 35,092 people on our public roads. At NHTSA, we know that is not just a number. Every one of those is a mother or father, a son or daughter, a coworker, a friend. And the problem is getting worse. Last month we announced that roadway fatalities in the first half of this year are up over 10 percent.

It is against this backdrop that the Department of Transportation, under the leadership of Secretary Anthony Foxx, has been working so hard on our efforts to accelerate the safe deployment of automated vehicle technologies.

Because while automated vehicles carry enormous potential to transform mobility and reshape our transportation system, it is their awesome potential to revolutionize roadway safety that has us so motivated.

And there is one more number that helps explain why. That number is 94. That is the percentage of crashes that can be tied back to a human choice or error. That’s a choice to speed or drive drunk, to send a text message from behind the wheel or misjudge the stopping distance.

That 94 percent represents the untold potential of automated vehicle technologies. We envision a future where advanced technologies not only help reduce crashes, but a world with fully self-driving cars that hold the potential to eliminate traffic fatalities altogether.

The Federal Automated Vehicles Policy, which the Department issued on Sept. 20, is the world’s first comprehensive government action to guide the safe and efficient development and deployment of these technologies.

In our view, this Policy is the right tool at the right time. It answers 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 and technologies.

But this Policy is not the final word. It is designed to be nimble and flexible, to evolve over time to allow us to stay at the leading edge. To that end, the Policy outlines a series of 23 next steps that will help guide the evolution.

The very first of those next steps are why we are here today. We have received comments on the entire Policy, and we have committed to holding a series of public workshops on the individual components of the Policy.

We held our first public workshop last month on the Policy overall, and on the first section specifically. We heard from a wide-ranging group, and that feedback has already proven helpful in guiding our next steps in implementing the Policy.

Today we are here to discuss two critical components of the Policy.

The first is the Model State Policy.

For the last 50 years, there has been a fairly clear division of responsibility between the Federal government and the States for the oversight and regulation of motor vehicles. Generally speaking, it has been the Federal government’s responsibility to regulate motor vehicles and equipment safety, while the States have regulated drivers and traffic laws.

That division of responsibility may be less clear in a highly automated vehicle world where increasingly the vehicle’s automated systems become the driver.

The Model State Policy delineates the Federal and State roles for the regulation of these vehicles, and it outlines the approach we recommend to States as they consider the regulation of testing and operation of automated vehicles on their public roads. Our goal is to build a consistent national framework for the development and deployment of automated vehicles, so that users can take their vehicles across state lines as they can today, and so that developers are building toward a single set of standards, rather than 50.

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. At the same time, the Policy reaffirms that the Federal government will continue to be responsible for the oversight of vehicle safety and design, including automated features.

The Policy was developed in close coordination with the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA), individual States and other stakeholders. It suggests recommended areas for States to consider in the development of their own regulations, including testing regimes and registration. It also identifies a number of areas that need to be further discussed and developed, including how law enforcement will interact with highly automated vehicles, and the development of a consistent approach to insurance and liability challenges.

The second section that we will discuss today is the Modern Regulatory Tools.

This section identifies 12 potential new tools, authorities and resources that could aid the safe deployment of new lifesaving technologies and enable 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 not be sufficient to ensure that highly automated vehicles are introduced safely, and to realize their full safety promise. This challenge requires NHTSA to examine whether the ways in which the Agency has addressed safety for the last several decades should be expanded and supplemented.

The new tools identified in this section include premarket approval, expanded exemption authority, imminent hazard authority, new research and hiring tools, and others that may better equip the Agency in the future as more technologies move from the lab to the road. These tools are offered for consideration by policymakers, industry, advocates and the public as we move forward.

The Policy is already the product of considerable public input, and its evolution will be based on the feedback we continue to receive. Your participation today will help the Department to continue to improve this Policy in a manner that reflects the ideas and concerns that we hear from you.

We are at an important moment. We have an industry that is rapidly innovating, and we have a government that is inspired about what this technology means for the future of safety.

We view the best path forward as having the entire community — from industry to safety and mobility advocates to the general public — working together in a committed way with safety at the top of the agenda

Thank you for being here today. We look forward to hearing what you have to say.