The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) released new federal guidance for automated vehicles. USDOT says that the new guidance, "Preparing for the Future of Transportation: Automated Vehicles 3.0," (AV 3.0) builds upon but does not replace the voluntary guidance provided in the previous iteration, "Automated Driving Systems 2.0: A Vision for Safety."

“The safe integration of automated vehicle technology into our transportation system will increase productivity, facilitate freight movement, and create new types of jobs,” said Secretary Elaine L. Chao.

AV 3.0 reportedly incorporates the results of extensive stakeholder engagement to provide updated voluntary guidance and policy considerations for a range of industry sectors that were named to include manufacturers and technology developers, infrastructure owners and operators, commercial motor carriers, bus transit, and state and local governments.

According to USDOT, AV 3.0 supports the safe development of automated vehicle technologies by:

  • Providing new multi-modal safety guidance
  • Reducing policy uncertainty and clarifying roles
  • Outlining a process for working with USDOT as technology evolves

USDOT says that the new AV 3.0 guidance provides several updates to its initiatives relating to automated vehicles, by:

  • Stating that USDOT will interpret and, consistent with all applicable notice and comment requirements, adapt the definitions of “driver” or “operator” as appropriate to recognize that such terms do not refer exclusively to a human, but may include an automated system.
  • Identifying and supporting the development of automation-related voluntary standards developed through organizations and associations, which can be an effective non-regulatory means to advance the integration of automation technologies.
  • Affirming that USDOT is continuing its work to preserve the ability for transportation safety applications to function in the 5.9 GHz spectrum.

AV 3.0 also announces and discusses several upcoming rulemakings and other actions being taken in the near future by the USDOT’s operating administrations, including:

  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) will request public comment on a proposal to streamline and modernize the procedures it will follow when processing and deciding exemption petitions.
  • The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) will initiate an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to address automated vehicles, particularly to identify regulatory gaps, including in the areas of inspection, repair, and maintenance for automated driving systems.
  • The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) announced plans to update the 2009 Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), taking into consideration new connected and automated vehicle technologies.
  • The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is initiating research to develop and demonstrate a concept of operations, including system requirements, for the use of automated and connected vehicles to improve safety of highway-rail crossings.
  • The Maritime Administration (MARAD) and FMCSA are evaluating the regulatory and economic feasibility of using automated truck queueing as a technology solution to truck staging, access, and parking issues at ports.
  • The Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Administration (PHMSA) is researching the ability to enable the digital transmission of information to first responders before they arrive at an incident that involves hazardous materials.
  • The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has published a five-year research plan on automating bus transit.

The draft guidance will be published in the Federal Register for public review and comment. More information on USDOT’s work on automated vehicle systems can be found at www.transportation.gov/av.

Based on the USDOT's recent announcement for AV 3.0, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) and Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection Subcommittee Chairman Bob Latta (R-OH) issued a statement:

We applaud DOT’s continued commitment to getting safe and innovative self-driving cars on America’s roadways, and share in the urgency for a unified safety framework across state lines. The U.S. is at a critical point in the development of this life-saving technology, and if we can’t get policy on the books, we stand to lose jobs, investment, and innovation to other countries. Today’s updated federal guidance demonstrates America is ready to lead the world in the development of self-driving cars, and we look forward to working with DOT and our Senate colleagues to ensure the momentum continues.

Previous reporting from AVT on the Self Drive Act of 2017 can be found here.

You can watch the full USDOT announcement on AV 3.0 below.