The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has issued a policy statement concerning automated, or self-driving vehicles, including its planned research on related safety issues and recommendations for states related to the testing, licensing and regulation of such vehicles.

“Whether we’re talking about automated features in cars today or fully automated vehicles of the future, our top priority is to ensure these vehicles—and their occupants— are safe,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. Accordingly, the new policy includes (i) an overview of different areas of “vehicle innovation,” (ii) a summary of NHTSA’s research plan for automated vehicles, and (iii) recommendations to states that have authorized the vehicles’ operation. Several states, including California, Florida and Nevada, have reportedly adopted legislation to permit the operation of self-driving vehicles. According to NHTSA, these experimental vehicles are at the highest end of a wide range of automation that begins with safety features already in some vehicles, such as electronic stability control.

“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.” See NHTSA News Release, May 30, 3013.