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US Sets Unprecedented Guidelines For Self-Driving Cars: Safety First [Video]

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As expected, the U.S. Department of Transportation has finally revealed its new guidelines for self-driving cars.

Announced on Tuesday, these unprecedented guidelines aim to set the stage for the safe testing and deployment of autonomous vehicles, giving researchers and automakers some clues for the future.

When Tech Times reported on Monday that the U.S. government was getting ready to set self-driving car guidelines, anticipation was already brimming. It's finally official now, so here's what you need to know about the new announcement.

First off, the guidelines make up a 116-page document described as "the most comprehensive national automated vehicle policy that the world has ever seen." At the same time, the document is not final, as it still leaves room for more changes and adjustments in the future.

"As the digital era increasingly reaches deeper into transportation, our task at the U.S. Department of Transportation is not only to keep pace, but to ensure public safety while establishing a strong foundation such that the rules of the road can be known, understood, and responded to by industry and the public," says Secretary Anthony Foxx of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

While self-driving cars have great potential and might be the future of transportation, pressing questions still remain regarding their socioeconomic impact, safety, role, privacy and security among other concerns.

"Many of these larger questions will require longer and more thorough dialogue with government, industry, academia and, most importantly, the public," adds Foxx.

As previously mentioned, this document aims to serve as a work in progress rather than a final set of rules, establishing a framework and foundation upon which the agency can build in the future.

The guidelines detail a 15-point safety assessment letter, which researchers and manufacturers will have to submit to the agency. In this letter, they will have to explain how the self-driving vehicle and the technology employed address matters such as system safety and cybersecurity. Researchers and carmakers will initially be asked to submit this safety assessment letter, but it could eventually become a mandatory requirement.

The document further outlines a model state policy for the regulation of self-driving cars. Regulating the hardware and software powering up autonomous vehicles will be the responsibility of the U.S. Department of Transportation, which means that federal regulations will apply when the software is doing the driving. When there's a human behind the wheel, state laws apply.

Moreover, states will have to designate a lead agency that will handle self-driving vehicle testing, and a committee responsible for automated safety technology. States will also be in charge of setting liability rules for self-driving cars, outlining a plan to address driver distraction and noting who should be liable in case of an accident: the carmaker, vehicle owner, operator or passenger.

The U.S. Department of Transportation will keep working on these guidelines and plans to release a revised version sometime next year. For more details regarding Tuesday's announcement, check out the video below.

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