USDOT Accelerates Work on Automated Vehicles 3.0

February 15, 2018

The U.S. Department of Transportation is moving forward with the next iteration of its federal policy document on automated vehicles (AVs), titled Automated Vehicles 3.0, with a flurry of requests for comment and two public meetings.

Last month, USDOT took this year’s first steps forward on 3.0 with the release of Requests for Information (RFIs) and Requests for Comment (RFC) from three agencies: FHWA, FTA, and NHTSA. These will inform the approach of each agency to 3.0 and their future activities around vehicle automation. And at USDOT’s Automated Vehicle Policy Summit on March 1, officials will provide a verbal overview of the draft framework for AV 3.0 and gather comments from stakeholders and the general public.

As ETW first reported in November, AV 3.0 will address automated vehicle technologies in all forms of on-road transportation, including passenger vehicles, trucks, and buses. This is a departure from the last two iterations of the federal AV policy, which were primarily focused on how the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) would regulate the design, construction, and performance of AVs.

As a result, each modal administration is contributing to AV 3.0 by providing guidance for stakeholders, identifying regulatory barriers for AVs in their fields, and (in some cases) initiating grant programs. This includes NHTSA, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

FTA already unveiled some of its work on 3.0 with the announcement of its 5-year Strategic Transit Automation Research (STAR) Plan, which will support public transit agencies as they begin integrating AV technologies in buses. Through STAR, FTA is working with public transit agencies and industry to identify barriers to integrating automation technology and developing guidance for agencies. FTA has also dedicated funding for seven integrated demonstrations of automated buses.

It must be noted that AV 3.0 will not fully replace its predecessor, Automated Driving Systems 2.0: A Vision for Safety. NHTSA’s guidance for AV manufacturers in 2.0 will be incorporated in 3.0, including the 12-point Voluntary Safety Self-Assessment (VSSA) that manufacturers could choose to send to NHTSA. (Since the release of 2.0 in September 2017, two AV manufacturers have already published their VSSAs – ETW reviewed them here.)

On March 6, NHTSA will hold a public meeting on the next phase of its work on AVs: identifying regulatory barriers in existing Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) that could prevent the deployment of AVs with unconventional designs (e.g., no steering wheel or brake pedal).

USDOT is expected to release additional RFIs and RFCs ahead of the Automated Vehicle Policy Summit on March 1. One of them may be from FMCSA, which is working on identifying regulations on commercial motor vehicle operations that could prevent (or discourage) the integration of AV technology in trucks and buses.

In the meantime, the following RFI and RFCs are open until early March:

Registration for the Automated Vehicle Policy Summit is open until February 23 – interested parties can sign up here.


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