Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) took a major step in the right direction when it comes to embracing self-driving car technology. The department announced updated policy guidance on autonomous vehicles, along with a 2017 budget request that includes $4 billion over 10 years for autonomous vehicle pilot programs.
Autonomous vehicles have enormous safety potential in crash avoidance and a policy approach that does not inhibit development is essential to preserving lives on American roadways. Demand for enhanced safety has led numerous states to allow companies to experiment with this technology to realize the potential benefits automated vehicles have on highway safety, fuel consumption, and traffic congestion. But is has also led to a growing patchwork of inconsistent rules. For this reason alone, it was vital for USDOT to weigh in with updated guidance.
We are also pleased to see that USDOT is working to address TIA’s previously expressed concerns regarding technology neutral policies and public consultation. Specifically, the department’s updated guidance states that:
- Within six months, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) will propose best-practice guidance to industry on establishing principles of safe operation for fully autonomous vehicles (vehicles at Level 4 on the scale established in NHTSA’s 2013 preliminary policy statement – available here).
- USDOT will work with states and other governmental entities, as well as industry, to ensure testing is done in a way that protects safety today but enables future innovations in safety.
- NHTSA encourages manufacturers to, when appropriate, seek use of NHTSA’s existing exemption authority to field test fleets that can demonstrate the safety benefits of fully autonomous vehicles.
TIA is fully committed to the success of connected and automated vehicles, its growth potential and its societal benefits. We commend Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx for taking these bold steps to ensure that the agency is not a barrier or impediment to innovation in the transportation arena. Moving forward, TIA will continue to work with the Administration and Congress to ensure our rules and laws allow and encourage automated vehicle technology to advance.