Today, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, joined by the R Street Institute, submitted comments to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in response to the agency’s request for comments on its latest guidance document, Automated Driving Systems 2.0: A Vision for Safety (ADS 2.0).
ADS 2.0 supplants the September 2016 Federal Automated Vehicles Policy and makes a number of positive changes, many of which were recommended by CEI et al. in comments on the earlier guidance document.
In our comments, we applaud NHTSA’s decision to eliminate confusing and/or counterproductive elements that were found in its 2016 guidance, namely privacy, data sharing, and ethical considerations. NHTSA also eliminated an early contradiction that could have possibly been interpreted as requesting that states codify mandatory compliance with nonbinding federal guidance. ADS 2.0 repeatedly states (dozens of times throughout the document) that it is a nonbinding guidance document and that adherence to its recommendations are completely voluntary.
NHTSA also consolidated its guidance from four sections to two: Voluntary Guidance and Technical Assistance to States. On Voluntary Guidance, we primarily focus on providing recommendations on the database structure for collected Voluntary Safety Self-Assessments and suggestions for how to make this collected information easily accessible to developers and the general public.
On Technical Assistance to the States, we applaud NHTSA’s clarification on the respective roles of various levels of government, as well as its strict adherence to the nonbinding legal nature of federal guidance documents. In addition, we request that NHTSA make a technical correction to clarify that states should accept a test operator’s driver license, regardless of the issuing state or country, as a condition for that driver’s ability to participate in a state-level automated vehicle testing program. This is to ensure that developers do not face an unnecessarily limited test driver applicant pool, particularly for testing within metropolitan areas that span across state borders.
Overall, this guidance update was more about cleaning up the previous guidance than laying out a new vision for NHTSA with respect to automated driving systems. That future update is expected sometime early next year.