On Monday, January 11th the Department of Transportation released the Automated Vehicles Comprehensive Plan. In part, the plan looks back over what the Department has done in relation to AVs during Elaine Chao’s time as the Secretary of Transportation. However, it also lays out several steps the Department plans to take going forward. Of course, the plan laid out in this document is subject to changes brought forth by the Biden administration, specifically Pete Buttigieg who has been nominated to lead the Department of Transportation.
The document is formatted around three broad Principles that the DOT will focus on going forward:
Principle I: Protect Users and Communities
- Prioritize Safety: In addition to facilitating the safe integration of AV technologies, the Plan calls for oversight on misleading claims about performance capabilities.
- Emphasize Security and Cybersecurity: The effort will include the development and promotion of physical and cybersecurity standards and best practices in regard to cybersecurity.
- Ensure Privacy and Data Security: The DOT will focus on protecting driver and passenger data as well as the data of passive third parties — such as pedestrians about whom AVs may collect data — from privacy risks such as unauthorized access, collection, use, or sharing.
- Enhance Mobility and Accessibility: The US Government will protect the ability of consumers to make the mobility choices that best suit their needs, including driving their own vehicles.
Principle II: Promote Efficient Markets
- Remain Technology Neutral: The US Government will adopt flexible, technology-neutral policies that will allow the public to choose the most economically efficient and effective transportation and mobility solutions.
- Protect American Innovation and Creativity: The US Government will continue to promote sensitive emerging technologies through the enforcement of intellectual property rights and the protection of technical data and sensitive, proprietary design information to prevent rival countries from obtaining an unfair advantage at the expense of American innovators.
- Modernize Regulations: The US Government will modernize or eliminate outdated regulations that unnecessarily impede the development of AVs to encourage a consistent regulatory and operational environment.
Principle III: Facilitate Coordinated Efforts
- Promote Consistent Standards and Policies: The US Government will engage State, local, tribal, and territorial authorities as well as industries to promote the development and implementation of voluntary consensus standards, advance policies supporting the integration of AVs throughout the transportation system, and seek harmonized technical standards and regulatory policies with international partners.
- Ensure a Consistent Federal Approach: The US Government will proactively facilitate coordination of AV research, regulations, and policies across the Federal Government to ensure maximum effectiveness and leverage inter-agency resources.
- Improve Transportation System-Level Effects: The US Government will focus on opportunities to improve transportation system-level performance, efficiency, and effectiveness while avoiding negative transportation system-level effects from AV technologies.
In addition to the broad principles above, the plan lays out several objectives. Many reflect the desire of the Department of Transportation to conduct and fund research, issue guidance and ask for feedback. However, the report does include some concrete steps the Department is looking to take:
- Streamline the process of seeking exemptions and waivers from Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards
- Conduct rulemaking and research to adapt existing Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards to remove unintended and unnecessary barriers to the introduction of novel vehicle designs and features enabled by ADS
- Adapt existing Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations to remove unnecessary barriers to the operation of ADS-equipped commercial vehicles in interstate commerce
- Provide funding for ADS-focused demonstrations, pilots and deployments
- Update infrastructure standards to reflect ADS technologies