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Pennsylvania Guidelines to Prevent Self-Driving Car Accidents

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The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) assembled the Pennsylvania Autonomous Vehicle Testing Policy Task Force  to create a framework for highly autonomous vehicles,  (HAV) also known as “self-driving cars”.  Pennsylvania required the framework to balance public safety with innovation, according to TruckingInfo.com. Proper testing of HAVs could lead to safer roads and prevent self-driving car accidents.

State, federal, and industry officials including the Federal Highway Administration, AAA, General Motors, Uber and the Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association were part of the joint effort.  The task force released its guidelines to the public during December 2016.

TruckingInfo suggested that the framework was flexible enough to keep Pennsylvania at the forefront of developing emerging and transformative technology.

The proposed framework includes the following requirements:

  • HAV testers submit proposals to PennDOT and attest that the vehicle meets all federal and state safety standards, as well as PennDOT policies
  • Testers certify that cybersecurity protections are in place
  • Testers must notify PennDOT  before any HAV is used without an operator
  • The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission and PennDOT have authority to temporarily restrict HAVs from certain routes
  • Self-driving cars have the ability to record data that can be used to investigate crashes, although PennDOT will not have access to the data
  • PennDOT has the ability to collect data from HAVs including size of fleets and total miles and hours operated
  • PennDOT can restrict the number of platooning vehicles to two commercial or three passenger vehicles

Leslie Richards, PennDOT Secretary, said in a public forum that self-driving cars are an “enormous transportation revolution” that is “coming faster than we ever dreamed.”

Richards suggested that gathering data to improve autonomous vehicles may decrease the number of auto accidents in Pennsylvania.  According to Richards, 95% of fatalities on Pennsylvania roads are due to human error.  She believes autonomous technology can eventually remove human distraction from the equation, according to The Incline.

HAV testing is important if self-driving vehicles are to become integrated into society. The technology must be improved before the vehicles can become mainstream. Legal Lookout disclosed that at least two self-driving car accidents have been reported. Both claims involve Tesla Model S autonomous vehicles. Richards stressed that safety is at the forefront of PennDOT’s development.

The framework’s fate relies on the next session of the state legislature in 2017. PennDOT encouraged the Pennsylvania residents to review the policy and submit feedback to penndotav@pa.gov through January 12.

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