Google's self-driving Toyota Prius in city traffic

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has decided it's time to step back into the regulatory driver's seat, this time to outline the way forward for autonomous vehicles. Cars with partial self-driving capability are expected to arrive by 2020, and it's said that vehicles that can shuttle you around with any driver inputs should be here by 2025. In the interest of keeping everyone safe and ushering in a coherent state-by-state framework, NHTSA is planning a four-year initial research program that look at all the ways in which autonomous and partially autonomous technologies can have an impact on safety. According to USA Today, NHTSA is recommending that states authorize "operation of self-driving vehicles, for test purposes," something that isn't even a given across all 50 states yet.

In addition, NHTSA is interested in peripheral active safety features, including safety monitors that help cars stay in their lanes or brake assist systems that slow cars automatically in the case of an imminent collision, and it will be looking at whether these kinds of driving aids should be mandatory.