Public Listening Summit on Automated Vehicle Policy
By Will Simon, U.S.-Israel Future Mobility Center

Last Thursday, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) held its Public Listening Summit on Automated Vehicle Policy at DOT headquarters. The meeting kicked off by Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, reaffirmed DOT’s commitment to working across all sectors and aisles to create an ecosystem that encourages innovation and establishes the United States as the global leader in transportation technology. Over five hundred stakeholders from industry, state and local governments, consumer groups, and more were in attendance with another five hundred live-streaming the meeting online. Automated Driving Systems 2.0 has been viewed over 120,000 times making it the most viewed document in DOT history. Secretary Chao set the tone for the summit by addressing both the potential safety and societal benefits of automated systems while expressing her concern for issues such as privacy and workforce development – a topic closely tied to her as a former Secretary of Labor. Secretary Chao concluded her remarks by introducing the six principles the Federal Automated Vehicle Policy (FAVP) 3.0 will address.

The six principles will address key issues such as terminology ambiguity, privacy, and data exchange, intermodal transportation. The full list is as follows:

1. Safety will continue to be DOT’s number one priority.
2. DOT’s approach to AV policy will be completely tech neutral and not top down. DOT will not pick winners and will let the market decide on the safest and most adaptable technologies.
3. When regulations are needed, they will be non-prescriptive and performance-based. Regarding all regulatory actions moving forward, DOT will not assume the driver is a human.
4. DOT will work the states and other authorities to avoid a patchwork approach to policy that will inhibit innovation.
5. DOT will provide stakeholders with guidance, best practices, and pilot programs, to make ready complimentary technologies including but not limited to V2V and V2X.
6. DOT recognizes that there will always be the need to operate side-by-side with traditional manned vehicles in both rural and urban settings and DOT will not assume universal implementation.

Trucking Takes Center Stage

American Trucking Associations’ CEO Chris Spear shined in the first panel, moderated by Intel’s Marjorie Dickman, as he gave an insightful outlook of the trucking industry’s economic impact in the United States. The trucking industry accounts for 1 in every 16 jobs in America, yet there is a growing shortage of drivers and new innovative workers. Spear believes automated systems can supplement that short, but the false hysteria around issues such as job loss is inhibiting the industry’s ability to attract new young talent. Engaging the media more to promote more sensible coverage of the transition and replacing terms like “driverless” with “driver assist” will enable the trucking industry not only to address the issues it is facing but lead the automated driving future. Fellow panelists Mike Newcomb of Union Pacific and Shane Karr of Fiat Chrysler echoed Spear’s sentiment and expressed the need for a clearer roadmap to automated vehicle policy and more intermodal discussions among stakeholders. Regulators need not get ahead of themselves in their policy-making efforts; rather, they should focus on clarifying and updating current regulatory standards to streamline technology ready for the road today.

There Are No Republican or Democratic Potholes

The same is true for autonomous vehicle legislation, at least for now. While the House’s bill passed 54-0 in committee, Chief Counsel for the Subcommittee on Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection Melissa Froelich admitted that the bill did not address the hardest issues – yet. Miss Froelich’s committee held of 300 stakeholder meetings in 2017 to help develop the bill, but they are still working through many of the more challenging issues, such as cyber and privacy, and countless hypotheticals. There is a clear need for defined federal and state roles to get NHTSA the data it needs to provide guidance and to address issues such as rural areas, workforce development, and intermodal transportation. Kirk Steudle, Michigan DOT’s Executive Director, touted his state’s efforts to deregulate from the beginning and how this approach has allowed Michigan to spring ahead in research, development, and testing. Michigan is now focusing on more in-depth issues such as real-time mapping updates which were a staple of Marjorie Dickman’s opening remarks. Tina Quigley, Nevada’s Regional Transportation Commission General Manager, brought the Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) dynamic into more focus. Miss Quigley argued that there are many ways the transportation revolution can go, many of which leading to more miles traveled on our nation’s roads. If this is the case, all levels of government must prepare to invest in the infrastructure and technology needed to handle the increased VMT.

All Hands On Deck

The final panel allowed for a brief introduction from several of the other significant departments within DOT to express their commitment to collaboration and creating a truly intermodal transportation future. Centrally, the panel expressed the need for more data sharing to increase safety in areas such as work zones for the transit of hazardous materials. Victoria Hildebrand concluded the meeting by announcing a national dialogue on automation that will begin this summer throughout the entire country.

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