Washington (October 4) – The R Street Institute welcomes the release of “Automated Vehicles 3.0: Preparing for the Future of Transportation”, the updated automated driving systems policy guidance document from the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT). The non-binding guidance is largely in keeping with the vision foreshadowed by Secretary Elaine Chao in her March 1 remarks at USDOT’s “AV Summit” insofar as it focuses on department-wide adoption of regulatory principles that are applicable across all major modalities of surface transportation – from passenger vehicles to heavy trucks, to freight rail. It represents another crucial step toward the deployment of these life-saving technologies.

The revamped document continues in the vein of “Automated Driving Systems 2.0: A Vision for Safety”, which outlined a regulatory vision for the safe development of HAVs, while explaining the various roles that federal and state governments have in the regulation of HAVs, and resolved confusion created by the original federal automated vehicles policy (FAVP) guidance about its legal significance.

Where this new guidance document differs is not only a matter of scope, but also specificity by addressing the actual deployment of the technology across all modes of surface transportation. The document also provides regulatory clarity by outlining more specifically which sub-agencies will provide future guidance on each category of transportation method.

The secretary also announced today that the agency will be taking an important step in educating the public by partnering with the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Commerce to further study the prospects of worker automation and issue positive recommendations both employees and employers can take today to begin preparing.

“Highly automated technologies hold exciting potential for all modes of transportation, not just automobiles. AV 3.0 recognizes this, and the vital necessity of embracing all modes of transportation – from freight rail to heavy truck applications – that will be transformed by the further introduction of automation,” R Street Senior Fellow Ian Adams said. “In the absence of federal legislation specific to highly-automated vehicles, USDOT is wise to continue to refine its guidance while also addressing best practices for state and local governments as they work on practical HAV implementation projects happening around the country.”

This multimodal approach to AV 3.0 involves multiple agencies coordinating to identify and address regulatory barriers to HAV deployment and execute pilot programs to close research gaps. Such an approach is vital as the agency embraces the regulatory principals of remaining “tech neutral” and providing a “consistent regulatory and operational environment”. In the past, a lack of coordination has lead sub-agencies like NHTSA and FMCSA to take very different approaches to the technology applied in similar domains.

As USDOT moves forward with the advanced notice of rulemaking process and considers comments from a wide variety of stakeholders, we applaud the agency for their forward-looking regulatory principles and emphasis on voluntary guidance. The United States has a strong lead in HAV technology internationally, and the agency’s consistently pro-innovation regulatory framework over the past few years has played a large role.

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