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US Department of Transportation releases regulatory guidance on autonomous vehicles

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U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao announced the department’s third version of federal regulatory guidance for automated vehicles to ease roll out of the vehicles 80-page report highlights federal actions to streamline regulatory barriers and provides recommendations for state and local governments to best prepare for automated vehicle deployment Owning more roads and bridges than any other public entity, counties play a key role in the rollout of automated vehicle technology

On October 5, U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Elaine Chao announced DOT’s third version of federal regulatory guidance for automated vehicles. The report, Preparing for the Future of Transportation: Automated Vehicles 3.0 (AV 3.0), provides voluntary guidance, policy clarification and best practices for stakeholders to better prepare America’s transit system for automated vehicles.

The 80-page report highlights federal actions to streamline regulatory barriers and provides recommendations for state and local governments and private industries as autonomous vehicle testing accelerates. In the written introduction to the report, Secretary Chao states, “AV 3.0 introduces guiding principles and describes the Department’s strategy to address existing barriers to safety innovation and progress.” AV 3.0 builds upon but does not replace the voluntary guidance DOT provides in Automated Systems 2.0: A Vision for Safety, which was issued in September 2018.

The report serves as a guide for state and local governments to better prepare for automated vehicle testing and deployment. Counties are major stakeholders, owning 45 percent of the nation’s roads and 39 percent of the nation’s bridges. AV 3.0 provides several policy actions local governments can implement to create conducive environments for automated technology while prioritizing public safety.  This includes adopting policy terminology, assessing roadway readiness and building organizational capacity for automated vehicles in communities.

For industry stakeholders, the report includes significant federal actions to ease the development of automated vehicles. DOT will adapt the definition of “driver” and “operator,” so to not refer exclusively to humans and instead include automated systems under the definition. AV 3.0 will also pave the way for automated vehicle designs to not include steering wheels, pedals or mirrors. Furthermore, the report announces a potential notice of proposed rulemaking that would exempt automated driving vehicles from certain safety standards only relevant when human drivers are present.

Automated vehicle technology offers the potential to improve public safety, decrease road congestion and spur economic development. However, these technologies also introduce new safety risks. Counties are a key stakeholder to ensure public safety on its roadways. While NACo does not have specific policy supporting or opposing autonomous vehicles, counties urge federal, state and local partners to collaborate on safe and transparent rollout methods of this new technology.

About Zach George (Full Bio)

Legislative Assistant

Zach George joined NACo in March 2016 and serves as a Legislative Assistant. He is responsible for writing and editing blog articles, conducting legislative research and providing legislative support for Environment, Energy and Land Use; Transportation; Telecommunications and Technology; and the Gulf Coast Counties and Parishes Coalition.

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