- National transportation leaders and stakeholders, including representatives from the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT), Federal Highway Administration (FHA), Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), American Trucking Associations and state-level transportation departments, joined at USDOT on Thursday for a public listening summit on automated vehicle (AV) policy.
- The summit centered around the draft AV 3.0 Framework, which is expected to be released as early as summer 2018. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao explained the framework, which includes AV guidance for mass transit, rail and trucking, follows six basic principles:
- Safety remains the Department's top priority.
- The Department will remain tech neutral, leaving the market to "determine the most effective solutions."
- Regulations will be as "non-prescriptive and performance-based as possible."
- The Department will work with states and authorities to avoid a patchwork approach.
- The Department will prepare for complementary AV technologies, such as vehicle-to-vehicle communications.
- The Department recognizes there will always be the need for AVs to operate side-by-side with traditional vehicles.
- The public has the opportunity to submit written comment regarding the AV 3.0 Framework by March 9.
As both private and public sector — including government officials on the local, regional, state and federal levels — test and deploy new autonomous technologies, the USDOT is stepping in to create a standard vocabulary and understanding of AV concepts and opportunities. Derek Kan, Under Secretary for Transportation Policy at USDOT, explained that the three main priorities of AV 3.0 are safety, infrastructure and preparing for the future. He noted this is "the most consequential period" of AV development, and explained the U.S. needs to balance autonomous innovation with "concerns of safety, security and accessibility."
This is certainly not the first time the federal government has stepped in on AV policy, however. In September 2017, the USDOT released ADS 2.0: A Vision for Safety, which Chao touts as the most-viewed policy document in DOT history. The 3.0 framework aims to build on the 2.0 framework, while narrowing in focus on trucks, rails, ports and highways.
Chris Spear, president and CEO of American Trucking Associations, passionately expressed the importance of AV integration in trucking. He noted trucking now moves 71% of domestic freight tonnage, and as the trucking industry faces a national driver shortage, attracting new talent and new opportunity is crucial. He also underlined the importance of differentiating "driverless" from "driver-assist," noting the public must be "rational and sensical" about understanding the autonomous evolution.
Chris Spear, CEO of @TRUCKINGdotORG: AV integration in trucking is focused on driver assist, not driverless. To think otherwise, at least in short term, is "ludicrous."— Kristin Musulin (@kristinmusulin) March 1, 2018
Shane Karr, vice president of external affairs for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, echoed Chao's second "basic principle" of the 3.0 framework by noting the importance of allowing the market, not regulation, to drive tech innovation. He did, however, underscore the importance of federal leadership in determining regulation that will allow automakers to manufacture vehicles that can be sold in all 50 states, which will encourage interstate commerce by allowing vehicles to legally cross state lines.
Tina Quigley, general manager of the Regional Transportation Commission of Nevada, said that "technology is the new asphalt" and challenged the room to think about the vehicle miles traveled (VMT), with the growth of AV tech. "Are we going to be operating at a more efficient type of behavior, or are we going to be consuming more VMT? ... We have to make sure we're not just encouraging additional miles traveled, but also managing the transportation system as a whole [and] moving toward policies that encourage shared ride, shared vehicles, as opposed to just private ownership and adding more miles to our trips," she explained.
The trends of consumer confidence and collaborative growth were also highlighted through stakeholder comments, and the event wrapped up with a clear message: AV development is a bipartisan issue and an inevitable cornerstone in American society. It is with buy-in from both public and private stakeholders, as well as the general public, that the U.S. will see quick success with its development.