New bills introduced in Congress in the past year would affect automakers by increasing agency oversight and enhancing regulations related to advanced driver-assistance systems, recalls and vehicle seat safety.
The National Transportation Safety Board in the past has noted a "lack of federal safety standards" for automated driving systems. Last year, the Stay Aware for Everyone Act was introduced in the Senate. If enacted, the SAFE Act would compel NHTSA to magnify its regulatory oversight. The legislation would require the Department of Transportation to conduct research regarding the installation and use of driver monitoring systems to minimize or eliminate driver distraction, driver disengagement, automation complacency and the foreseeable misuse of driver-assistance systems.
Renewed attention to the SAFE Act of 2020 comes after recent high-profile fatal accidents involving vehicles operating with advanced driver-assistance and autonomous systems, where human operators reportedly failed to appropriately intervene to avoid a collision. In one incident, a social media user was arrested following a widely circulated video that showed him riding in the back seat of his electric vehicle with the driver-assistance system engaged.
These reports reveal user over-reliance on the capabilities of current driver-assistance and autonomous-vehicle system technology. Thus, a looming challenge to AV systems makers will be the gap between the public's expectations of the performance of driver-assistance and automation technology and the reality of their current limitations. Until vehicles are truly ready to be called "driverless," advanced driver-assistance and autonomous-vehicle systems manufacturers face the problem of keeping drivers engaged in the task of driving to the level required by the technology.