But, it’s important to remember that in order for us to thrive in this time of transformation, we must do more than just innovate at or beyond the speed of the industry. Advancements in automated driving can be minimized if they aren’t supported by legislation. Public policy will continue to be an equally critical component to the advancement – or hindrance – of automated vehicle (AV) development and, ultimately, adoption.
Fortunately, it’s a promising time for AV policy in the United States. Both the House and the Senate are hard at work on bipartisan AV legislation. And, in September, we were proud to stand with U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Elaine Chao, as she announced an update to the Federal Automated Vehicle Policy (FAVP). Dubbed, "Automated Driving Systems 2.0: A Vision for Safety. "
These guidelines are a win for all AV players.
Undoubtedly, the most important reason this type of foresight is impactful for AV regulatory framework is safety. According to NHTSA, in 2015 there were more than 35,000 traffic fatalities. This marked a level not seen in the U.S. in the past 20 years. When you consider that human factors contribute to a majority of traffic crashes, it underscores the importance of the USDOT maintaining safety as the paramount priority in AV development and deployment. Fully automated vehicles have the potential to drastically reduce – potentially even eliminate – vehicle-related fatalities.
This 2.0 version of the FAVP also enables greater agility. Balancing safety concerns with stakeholder feedback regarding streamlined regulation, the updated guidelines foster more nimble processes. This kind of flexibility will help to ensure AV regulation matches – and adapts to – the incredible rate of innovation we are seeing across private and public sectors.
Let’s imagine for a moment that the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) had not released these federal-level guidelines. Without a “north star” guiding lawmakers, we could end up with a 50-state patchwork of regulations. By identifying best practices at the federal level and offering technical assistance to state legislators, 2.0 fosters innovation and autonomous development. It avoids the risk of vehicles that are unable to traverse across state borders safely, or at all, due to differences in legislation.
Finally, 2.0 is impactful because it is evolving. Secretary Chao made it clear that as this uncharted era in mobility continues to develop, as will these guidelines. Instead of acting as a static document, the guidelines will continue to be assessed and refreshed as new information and feedback is received from stakeholders and consumers. In fact, the U.S. DOT has indicated they’re already planning for version 3.0 in 2018. In this unprecedented time of change, it’s heartening to see that the U.S. DOT understands the speed at which this technology is coming, and is responding with a solution that will remain in sync.
These latest guidelines present enormous potential for AV progress. We look forward to continuing to work alongside the U.S. DOT to encourage innovation, preserve creativity and maintain safety as the paramount priority. While there is not yet a clear answer to the limits of potential disruption autonomous technology will bring, this is an important step in ensuring all mobility players will be able to deliver maximum benefits for society.