NHTSA has issued a preliminary policy for standards on driverless vehicles. A driverless vehicle is one in which
operation of the vehicle occurs without direct driver input to control the steering, acceleration, and braking and are designed so that the driver is not expected to constantly monitor the roadway while operating in self-driving mode
NHTSA is the agency that we report auto defects to in order to allow for investigations into unsafe automobiles or ones that do not meet safety standards. Prior to the announcing this new policy, there was not a standard in place on these new driverless vehicles. The policy itself, outlines NHTSA research into automated vehicles, definitions of various levels of automation and recommendations concerning states activities with regard to automated vehicles.
We're encouraged by the new automated vehicle technologies being developed and implemented today, but want to ensure that motor vehicle safety is considered in the development of these advances," said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. "As additional states consider similar legislation, our recommendations provide lawmakers with the tools they need to encourage the safe development and implementation of automated vehicle technology."
The policy statement also describes NHTSA's research efforts related to autonomous vehicles. While the technology remains in early stages, NHTSA is conducting research on self-driving vehicles so that the agency has the tools to establish standards for these vehicles, should the vehicles become commercially available. The first phase of this research is expected to be completed within the next four years.
read the release and policy here.