By Jack Weast, Intel Fellow and Vice President of Automated Vehicle Standards at Mobileye
In a recent interview about autonomous vehicle (AV) technology, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg said, “The truth is, technology has been developing maybe faster than policy in this regard.” He added that there are very detailed regulations for where a mirror must be placed but nothing at all about machines doing the work of humans.
This is an unfortunate truth about the hands-off regulatory approach the U.S. has taken to AVs and automated driving systems (ADS). It would be most ironic if the country that has been a world leader in the development of AV technology were the last to deploy it because we don’t have a clear regulatory framework. To be a global leader in AVs and ADS, the U.S. must have a a clear set of rules and regulations to govern this innovative and rapidly evolving industry.
In November 2020, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) kicked off this process by issuing an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and inviting the public to submit comments on developing a framework to regulate the safety of AVs. Intel was one of the AV industry stakeholders that recently submitted comments to NHTSA on this significant rulemaking. As a global leader in the development of ADS and AV technology, we appreciated this opportunity to share our point of view on the regulations needed to ensure continued road safety.
Intel has proposed a two-step process we believe will better position the U.S. as a global leader in ADS. This process includes 1) clear definition by NHTSA of performance-oriented metrics for ADS and 2) development of federal motor vehicle safety standards for ADS-equipped vehicles. The first step can be viewed as a near-future necessity, while the second is a long-term goal allowing government agencies to enable the widescale introduction of AVs to our nation’s transportation systems.
We believe that widescale adoption of AVs necessitates comprehensive standards for road safety and ADS technology. Our proposal includes recommendations on how to develop a framework for ADS safety. In this, we outlined four key needs:
- Performance-oriented metrics for ADS safety,
- Clear definition of a vehicle-level failure rate for ADS performance compared to human drivers,
- Fully defined values for what is reasonably foreseeable for an AV to expect about the behavior of other road users, and
- Technology-neutral process and engineering measures, including formal models to transparently define what constitutes safe driving for an ADS.
With this proposed framework, NHTSA can continue to foster innovation in the AV industry while focusing on safety. Our recommendations align with NHTSA’s desire to provide regulatory requirements without favoring any one company or stakeholder. Given how many companies are investing in ADS and AV technology at present, a transparent, technology-neutral approach is the best path forward.
Such a regulatory approach will benefit from a contribution by the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), an international standards development organization, IEEE 2846, Assumptions for Models in Safety-Related Automated Vehicle Behavior. We were gratified to hear Kevin Vincent, former chief counsel of NHTSA, say in a recent SAFE event on Autonomous Vehicles: A Framework for Deployment and Safety that the IEEE 2846 standard is the closest to becoming an industry standard and that NHTSA should adopt it. We couldn’t agree more. We urge NHTSA to adopt this essential standard that will enable the U.S. to become a global leader in ADS and AV technology.