In short: The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) has unveiled a new set of guidance suggestions meant to assist with ongoing policy preparations for the incoming wave of self-driving vehicles. Encompassed under a report titled ‘Preparing for the Future of Transportation: Automated Vehicles 3.0 (AV 3.0)’, the new outline adds to previous releases in terms of safety, reductions to uncertainty with definitions and roles, and highlighting the process of working with USDOT moving forward. For example, USDOT now says that it will be adapting its definitions for the terms “driver” and “operator” in order to show that those don’t only apply to humans occupying the space behind the wheel. Beyond that, it will continue working with organizations and associations to create automation-related voluntary standards to reduce the amount of regulation required to keep the technology moving forward. Finally, the Department will continue working to ensure that ‘transportation safety applications’ function in the 5.9 GHz spectrum.
Background: A solid set of standards and regulation are going to be central to driving automated vehicles into more widespread use in the US, given the country’s historical distrust of these types of technologies. USDOT has been approaching that issue by working with stakeholders such as manufacturers in the industry and officials at various levels of government to formulate guiding principles. While the goal isn’t necessarily to generate policies, it is at least partially focused on finding ways to bring the above-listed stakeholders into the discussion to determine what the best steps to take might be. More succinctly, the USDOT is releasing the guidance as a means to bring cooperation and input from manufacturers and technology developers, infrastructure owners and operators, commercial motor carriers, bus transit, and State and local governments. The goal is to propose policy considerations where necessary and ensure that everybody is on the same page to help promote advancement more quickly without sacrificing security and safety.
Impact: Building on progress made since AV 2.0, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) will be requesting public comment on a proposal meant to streamline and modernize procedures for processing and deciding automated vehicle exemption petitions, according to USDOT’s new report. Meanwhile, maritime officials and motor safety officials are working to evaluate truck queuing to address staging, access, and parking issues at ports and the Federal Railroad Administration is conducting its own research to improve railroad crossing safety with automated systems. Other agencies are following suit too, with a focus on public transit, unifying systems to accommodate new technologies as they emerge, and handling hazardous materials in AI-driven vehicles. Simultaneously, the collaborative USDOT effort has spurred the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to examine possible gaps in regulation with regard to inspections, repair, and maintenance of the vehicles themselves. So, although the new guidance is not at all binding, the guidance presented by USDOT will almost certainly have an influence on rulemaking processes for the growing presence and push for self-driving vehicle technologies.