RegNet Solutions Comments on NHTSA’s request for information on Removing Regulatory Barriers for Vehicles with Automated Driving Systems

RegNet Solutions, LLC welcomes the opportunity to respond to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) request for information on Removing Regulatory Barriers for Vehicles with Automated Driving Systems.

We offer a general comment as well as answers to specific questions 3, 6, 18, and 22.

As a general comment to the questions posed by NHTSA in Part A., “Barriers to Testing, Certification, and Compliance Verification”, we submit the following comments.

With regard to how NHTSA might approach compliance, we offer three possible frameworks:

Option 1: Carve out requirements and test procedures common to Automated Driving Systems (ADS) into a new Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS).  By way of example, FMVSS 305 defines requirements for various aspects of electric-powered vehicles.  This regulation does not focus on a specific vehicle category nor does it cover all systems and components.  Instead, FMVSS 305 focuses on the specific areas where electric vehicles are unique.  The same concept could be applied to autonomous vehicles.

Option 2: Introduce a whole vehicle approval-oriented approach to ADS.  By way of example, Regulation AIS-131 of India provides for a procedure for the limited production of vehicles that are intended to pilot new technologies.  On a larger scale, EU Directive 2007/46 defines requirements for whole vehicle type approval.  The advantage of a whole vehicle approval-oriented approach would be in its flexibility.  Manufacturers could choose, for example, to comply with conventional, unconventional, or a mixture of the two sets of requirements, depending on the design of the vehicle.  For the sake of clarity, we are not suggesting that NHTSA should issue certifications.  Self-certification would remain as the process to certify vehicles.  We are suggesting existing conventional, driver-in-the-loop regulations could exist alongside fully autonomous alternatives.

Option 3: Amend individual regulations.  Each of the regulations and associated test procedures identified in the Volpe Report or Google Letter could be amended through the rulemaking process.  We believe this approach would provide for less flexibility and that it would require significant effort to change the large number of existing regulations and test procedures.

Additionally, we note that cybersecurity and EMC are not included in the discussion of ADS.  We believe a holistic approach is necessary to ensure the safety of autonomous vehicles.

  1. Do you agree (or disagree) that the FMVSS provisions identified in the Volpe report or Google letter as posing barriers to testing and certification are, in fact, barriers? Please explain why.
  2. Similarly, are there ways to solve the problems that may be posed by any of these FMVSS provisions without rulemaking? For example, can some apparent problems be solved through interpretation without either additional research or through rulemaking? If so, which ones?

In the Google letter, NHTSA made several statements suggesting Google could apply for exemptions.  The combination of exemptions, small-volume exceptions, and the use of interpretations as a tool would make sense as a flexible solution to early stages of development.  As de-facto standards develop, this combination will likely not be scalable, but may act as a bridging tool in the interim.

  1. Are there any specific regulatory barriers related to small businesses that NHTSA should consider, specifically those that may help facilitate small business participation in this emerging technology?
  2. Are there industry standards, existing or in development, that may be suitable for incorporation by reference by NHTSA in accordance with the standards provisions of the National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act of 1995 and Office of Management and Budget Circular A-119, “Federal Participation in the Development and Use of Voluntary Consensus Standards and Conformity Assessment Activities?”

With vehicles increasingly becoming technology platforms, innovation and advancements may come from garages and bedrooms rather than large, traditional R&D centers.  In order to facilitate participation in emerging technology, we believe that NHTSA should consider a process that maximizes transparency and participation and minimizes the cost of obtaining regulatory information for small business, non-profit organizations, and the general public.

There are two barriers to small business that NHSTA should consider:

  • Barriers to participation in the creation and amendment of these consensus standards
  • Barriers to access, which includes where to find documents and the cost associated with purchasing standards

With this in mind, we suggest that the public be notified of standards to be incorporated by reference using the Federal Register system.  Given the importance of this emerging technology, standards incorporated by reference should be made available in one of two ways:

  • Such standards should be published on an open access site, freely available to the public, or,
  • The requirements of privately developed standards should be integrated or “imported” into FMVSS

RegNet Solutions, LLC appreciates the opportunity to submit these comments.


Note: The NHTSA request can be found on regulations.gov, here: https://www.regulations.gov/docket?D=NHTSA-2018-0009