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Autonomous Vehicles

NSPE has been working on multiple fronts to promote and protect the public health, safety, and welfare in the development and deployment of autonomous vehicle technologies. Embracing its Grand Challenge to foster ethical innovation, the Society is taking action to give professional engineers a leading voice in ensuring that the same attention to safety and reliability that went into the built transportation infrastructure is incorporated into autonomous vehicles and smart transportation systems.

NSPE collaborated with the California Department of Motor Vehicles, which had been tasked with developing the nation’s first deployment regulations, including both functional operations and behavioral competencies for autonomous vehicles. The Society urged the California DMV to take a comprehensive and informed approach. NSPE also called for professional engineers to play a key role in vehicle safety certification that must include safety certifications by the manufacturer and third-party testing by competent and independent third-party authorities (i.e., PEs). The rulemaking issued by the California DMV in early 2016 reflected much of NSPE’s input.

NSPE is currently working on AV rulemaking at the federal level. Executive Director Mark Golden presented on NSPE’s position at a national hearing hosted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to gather input on developing Guidelines for the Safe Deployment and Operation of Automated Vehicle Safety Technologies. The NHTSA panel requested that NSPE also include in its formal submission the comments and guidance the Society provided to the California Department of Motor Vehicles as part of its recent rulemaking. NSPE also incorporated the Society’s related letter to the California PATH Program at UC Berkeley, which worked closely with the California DMV on the rulemaking. NSPE submitted its formal public comment in early May and a final rule is expected sometime over the summer.

NSPE’s Position

Public health, safety, and welfare are best served when professional engineers are included in engineering processes regardless of whether or not a given engineering issue lies within the regulated or unregulated practice of engineering. Professional engineers can add a level of assurance that emerging technologies are developed and deployed in a manner that holds paramount the protection of public health, safety, and welfare; accordingly, PEs should fill responsible roles in industry and governmental agencies.

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