As self-driving car technology advances, so does the need to educate government and law enforcement officials, as well as the public, on how to deal with highly automated vehicles.
In a white paper released this month, the Governors Highway Safety Association offers a series of recommendations for state highway safety offices, police, autonomous vehicle developers and other interested parties.
The paper describes a not-too-distant future where vehicles with multiple levels of automation must share the road and interact with one another. Some cars, the report notes, will lack even the most basic technologies, such as cruise control. But others will be equipped with advanced driver-assistance systems and even higher levels of automation where a human will be in control in some circumstances and a robot in others.
So what's a cop to do?
Among other things, the highway safety group recommends establishing a uniform method by which the police and other road users can easily identify automated vehicles.
It's also calling for a uniform way for law enforcement to gain access to information from event data recorders, as well as other data from highly automated vehicles, or HAVs, after a crash.
Among the other needs cited in the report:
• "Assurance that all HAVs will recognize and respond appropriately to direction from law enforcement, temporary traffic controls, and unusual roadway and traffic situations."
• "Agreement from the states, AV developers and providers, and NHTSA on how to reconcile conventional driving practices with HAVs' strict compliance with traffic laws."
The association further suggests creating safety messages to educate the public on AV technologies and capabilities.
For one thing, it says, people must understand they are sharing the road with vehicles that, unlike human drivers, are programmed to comply with all traffic rules.
"A mix of law-abiding HAVs and law-bending conventional-driver vehicles would not produce smooth traffic flows; it likely would produce both road rage and crashes."
The report cites AV crash data from California. It says that in almost all cases, a conventional vehicle struck the automated one, and many of the accidents were rear-end crashes at intersections "where a following driver did not understand that the HAV would come to a complete stop."
— Leslie J. Allen