The Fuse

Commission to Establish Best Practices for Testing and Deployment of Driverless Cars

by Matt Piotrowski | September 09, 2016

An expert commission has been established by Securing America’s Future Energy (SAFE) that will recommend best practices for testing and deployment of autonomous vehicles. The Commission on Autonomous Vehicle Testing and Safety, which is a project of SAFE’s Autonomous Vehicle Task Force, comes at an important point in the development of autonomy as more automakers and tech companies are embracing the new technology and making ambitious plans to bring it to market. Moreover, the public is skeptical of driverless vehicles, while policymakers are still evaluating how to manage the new technology.

The Commission on Autonomous Vehicle Testing and Safety comes at an important point in the development of autonomy as more automakers and tech companies are embracing the new technology and making ambitious plans to bring it to market.

The commission, which will meet with industry in the coming months, will consist of six experts with a wide variety of backgrounds with experience in public safety, transportation, health, and military. Mark Rosenker, the former head of the National Transportation Safety Board, will be the commission’s Chairman. “The reality of autonomous vehicles is upon us. Along with this exciting new innovation, however, there are many critical questions which need to be answered while these vehicles are being tested and deployed on open roads,” he said in a statement.

“The rapid advancement of autonomous vehicle technology is steering us into unchartered territory,” said Robbie Diamond, President and CEO of SAFE. “The Commission on Autonomous Vehicle Testing and Safety offers the kind of leadership we need to ensure the public that these cars are being tested safely on public roads, and potentially improve the process.”

“There are many critical questions which need to be answered while these vehicles are being tested and deployed on open roads.”

How autonomous vehicles are deployed and the reception they receive from the public and regulators will be vital in determining their long-term success, making the commission’s work vital. So far, there’s been trepidation surrounding the new technology. A recent poll by Vox/Morning Consult says that just 32 percent of Americans think self-driving cars will improve their driving experience, while almost 50 percent believe the opposite. Some 35 percent say that autonomy will bring about fewer accidents and fatalities on the road, and more than half believe it won’t improve congestion. These results underscore the importance of the commission’s message, and why it will be critical in helping shape public opinion.

Despite consumer skepticism, experts argue the potential gains from the penetration of driverless vehicles will be enormous. The biggest change will be safety. Roughly 35,000 Americans die in vehicle accidents every year, a public health hazard that is mostly the result of human error. Taking the driver out of the equation can save thousands of lives, strengthening the importance of the commission’s recommendations. Regarding energy savings, autonomous cars are poised to provide greater fuel efficiency from being lighter and increased electrification of the car fleet.

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