Companies from Apple to ZF TRW have weighed in on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's guidelines for self-driving vehicles. The most common concern: whether the guidelines go far enough to prevent a regulatory patchwork among the states.
The Federal Automated Vehicles Policy, introduced in September, sets a voluntary framework for design and development of autonomous vehicles before they are offered for sale.
The guidelines leave it open to the states to fill in "gaps in current regulations" on a variety of issues such as occupant safety, insurance, vehicle inspections and environmental impacts. NHTSA received more than 1,100 letters during the public comment period that ended Nov. 22.
"This language could be interpreted to invite states to pursue inconsistent regulatory approaches among states, or between states and the federal government," wrote John Krafcik, head of Google's self-driving car project.
Companies involved in autonomous vehicle development have had to lobby states to enact laws that make it legal to test the technology on public roads. Only 10 states and the District of Columbia have enacted autonomous-vehicle legislation. In the remaining 40 states, it is unclear if the vehicles would be considered legal on public roads.
The guidelines outline a "model state" approach, compiling features from current state legislation for eventual overarching federal regulations. NHTSA will be responsible for regulating vehicles and equipment, but it encourages states to continue to "experiment" with automated vehicle standards.