Federal Automated Vehicle Guidelines

Federal Automated Vehicle Guidelines

AAA Newsroom

Today, U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao released “Preparing for the Future of Transportation: Automated Vehicles 3.0 (AV 3.0),” the department’s third version of its federal automated vehicle guidelines. Sharing the stage with Secretary Chao were DOT Undersecretary for Policy Derek Kan, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Deputy Administrator Heidi King and the Federal Motor Carrier Administration’s Administrator Ray Martinez. The presence of each of these key stakeholders signals the department’s multi-modal approach and collaboration as AV deployment moves forward. Officials representing the disabled community and Washington D.C. law enforcement also joined the DOT leadership team. AAA Washington, DC staff attended the briefing.

Secretary Chao stated the updated version “builds upon but does not replace” the earlier guidance released last fall (A Vision for Safety 2.0). AV 3.0 was developed around three main focus areas:

  • Advancing multi-modal safety;
  • Reducing policy uncertainty; and
  • Outlining a collaborative process for working with U.S. DOT.

Secretary Chao also announced a new partnership among the Departments of Commerce, Health and Human Services, and Labor to analyze the impact of automation on the nation’s workforce.

The 64 page report includes DOT’s framework for moving forward with automation across all modes, including commercial vehicle operations, ports, and public transit, as well as continued focus on vehicle and highway safety. The multi-modal approach is one of the most significant differences from previous guidelines. 

U.S. DOT will receive comments on the new guidelines for the next 60 days.

AV 3.0 Highlights

The following are key takeaways from the new guidelines:

  • • Encourages state highway and safety officials to build on the best practices outlined in the earlier guidelines. State officials are urged to consider minimum requirements for test drivers who operate test vehicles, as well as recognize issues unique to “mobility-as–a-service” providers that utilize automated vehicles.
  • • Removes the federal designation of the 10 automated vehicle proving grounds announced in 2017. The department will determine future recognition and support of AV demonstration projects based on new criteria.
  • • Each modal office is preparing to release a series of advanced notice of rulemakings to inform each agency in identifying regulatory barriers moving forward. Specifically: 
    • o National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA):
      •  Seeking comments on proposed changes to federal motor vehicle safety standards to accommodate automated vehicle technologies and the possibility of setting exceptions to certain standards relevant only when human drivers are present for ADS-equipped vehicles.
      •  Seeking public comments on streamlining the procedures and decision-making process for addressing petitions for exemptions from current standards.
      •  In conjunction with today’s announcement, NHTSA issued an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking soliciting comments on designing a national pilot program that will help facilitate, monitor and learn from testing of emerging advanced driving technologies.
    • o Federal Highway Administration (FHWA):
      •  Working with stakeholders to address uniformity and consistency of traffic control devices, such as signage, with the goal to update the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD).
    • o Federal Motor Carrier Administration (FMCSA):
      •  Initiating a rulemaking to identify potential changes to commercial driver licensing regulations when the driver is an automated system.

On Capitol Hill, Senator John Thune (R-ND), chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, has not given up on legislative efforts to secure Senate floor time for the AV Start Act. The chairman is hopeful the bill could be added to another piece of legislation before the end of the session, and continues discussions with leadership. In recent weeks, a broad group of stakeholders representing pedestrians, bicyclists and people with disabilities sent a letter to Chairman Thune reiterating their opposition to the bill due to its lack of safety protections.