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ATA Questions DOT Federal Autonomous Vehicle Policy

The U.S. Department of Transportation this week release a Federal Automated Vehicles Policy document, which outlines the government’s regulatory blueprint for regulating autonomous vehicles and infrastructure planning going forward.

The policy is expected to be published in the Federal Register this week. A 60-day comment period will follow the posting.

Regulators from the Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said the guidelines would foster technology that would reduce the frequency of fatalities and crashes on U.S. roads.

The guidelines are designed to allow computers to take over many, and eventually all, of the driving functions in a vehicle. The rules apply to cars, trucks and commercial vehicles. It includes a 15-point safety assessment for manufacturers, developers and other organizations to guide the safe design, development, testing and deployment of automated vehicles.

As Trucks.com reports, Traffic safety regulators have developed a five-level scale to assess vehicle automation, concentrating on Level 3 – where the automated system “can both actually conduct some parts of the driving task with a human driver behind the wheel to take over” – to Level 5, where “the automated system can perform all driving tasks.”

The policy has wide support from safety groups, but the American Trucking Associations said the trucking industry was not consulted on the process.

“It is disconcerting that the department and the administration have developed these guidelines with virtually no involvement from the trucking industry,” Chris Spear, chief executive of the ATA, wrote in a letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. He urged Foxx to “bring commercial highway users to the table.”

“… any safety and highway infrastructure debate and regulatory framework that excludes trucking is incomplete.”

Spear said federal guidelines for autonomous-vehicle technologies will have “significant impacts to commercial freight companies, drivers and customers, as well as safety and the environment.

“Vehicles operating autonomously,” he said, “will need to be capable of interacting safely, whether through vehicle-to-vehicle technology or communicating through other means.”

The regulatory discussion needs to address such situations, he said.

“Any policy framework that ignores these potential downstream impacts will be ill-informed,” Spear said.

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