WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Transportation officials are partnering with trucking industry stakeholders to develop the latest autonomous vehicles guidelines.
The DOT, along with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, has been calling for public comments on the most recent federal guideline update regarding autonomous vehicle technology–AV 4.0.
Last month, the Federal Register published the DOT’s comment request after Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao first announced the initiative, officially titled “Ensuring American Leadership in Automated Vehicle Technologies” at CES 2020.
Public comments are due before April 2nd, and this summer will see further stakeholder work sessions to delve deeper into the future guidelines before they are finally published later in 2020.
“The U.S. DOT and OSTP see AV 4.0 as a method to ensure a consistent [U.S. government] approach to AV technologies and to ensure that the United States continues to lead AV technologies’ research, development, and integration,” said the Federal Register.
AV 4.0 aims to be a set of unifying principles throughout 38 different federal departments and agencies which gives state and local governments, industry representatives, and tech experts guidance regarding the operation of automated vehicles. The guidelines were originally built around government opportunities for collaboration, and AV tech growth boosting through administration efforts.
The initiative’s main aspiration was to prioritize safety, innovation, and consistent regulatory methods.
“While keeping safety as the approach–the priority for all of our engagements–we’ve been able to move this throughout the federal government so that all of the tools, assets, research, and grant-making dollars that are available, and enforcement authorities that are available throughout the federal government, can be at the hands of all our stakeholders that care about this,” said DOT deputy assistant secretary Finch Fulton.
According to Fulton, the upcoming national highway policy updates are an important way in which this technology can demonstrate its safety benefits throughout U.S. transit networks.
“Developments such as automated vehicles, drones, hyperloop, commercial space, and data initiatives can dramatically change the way people and goods are moved about the country and world,” Fulton explained. “Many of these technologies challenge the department in new or more sophisticated ways on methods to both prove and improve levels of safety, or in determining what mechanisms are best suited in the department for providing oversight.”
A main determining factor around AV regulation will be public opinion, according to Elaine Chao, Transportation Secretary.
“The real challenge is, as regulators, how do we address, how do we engage with emerging new technologies to address legitimate public concerns about safety, security, and privacy without hampering innovation? Because innovation is a trademark of who we are as Americans. That is our greatest export,” she said in February.
Currently, guidelines align with AV technology support initiatives and collaboration efforts by the Trump administration, including AV sector federal investments and research resources.
Back in January, Chao also announced the DOT’s standardized list of recommended ADAS terminology named “Clearing the Confusion” in collaboration with the National Safety Council, Consumer Reports, AAA, and J.D. Power–an initiative aiming to advance driver assistance systems.
“Currently, there is variance among manufacturers,” said Chao. “We want to make sure that drivers are aware that these systems are designed to ‘assist,’ not replace an engaged driver, which is still very important.”
Chao also explained her confidence behind AV tech’s potential to save thousands of lives, as 94% of crashes are a result of human error. She also noted that the tech could be particularly beneficial for those with transportation challenges needing more mobility options.
Still, congressional policymakers have not yet progressed on any autonomous tech legislation. According to Commerce Committee Chairman Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), new automated vehicle legislation directives were not likely to involve any provisions relative to trucks and buses. Additionally, the latest autonomous vehicle bill not to pass the Senate was related to vehicle regulations.
DOT’s DAS terminology list was announced two days after the American Transportation Research Institute demanded an autonomous vehicle technology policy for the trucking industry.
“Given that we intend for the policy document to be a living document and to be developed in an iterative fashion, subsequent opportunities to comment will also be provided periodically,” said the Federal Register.