Freightliner Inspriation autonomous truck at its rollout last Spring. Photo: Stephane Babcock

Freightliner Inspriation autonomous truck at its rollout last Spring. Photo: Stephane Babcock

Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx announced in a March 11 blog post that DOT will hold two public hearings, one in Washington, D.C., and one in California, to get input on “how to best integrate the safe operation of automated vehicles.”  

The first hearing will take place April 8th in Washington; a date for the California event has not been announced.

“The feedback from these meetings will help the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration provide manufacturers with the rules of the road for how we expect automated vehicles to operate safely,” Foxx wrote.   

He also advised that NHTSA is “continuing to take other key steps to support the development of new technologies, including working with local and state leaders on model state policy so that we have some overarching safety principles nationwide, and determining what new regulatory tools and authorities may be needed to meet their safety mission in a time of rapidly changing technology.”    

In addition, NHTSA has released a Volpe Center report prepared for DOT that identifies potential barriers and challenges for the certification of automated vehicles using existing Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.

Foxx said that the FMVSS “may have to adjust for this new era. The report found that for cars with traditional designs and controls, there are only minimal federal regulatory hurdles; however, there may be greater obstacles for vehicle manufacturers that design cars without controls for human drivers, such as a steering wheel or brake pedals.  

“The Volpe Center report underscores the need for the actions we’re taking,” he continued. “It confirms that we need to establish clear expectations for safe deployment, and tells us that NHTSA has more work to do to ensure the safety of new innovations. We look forward to learning more from stakeholders as we start that work.”

Foxx’s blog post does not specifically mention autonomous commercial vehicles.

However, the Volpe report examines numerous autonomous vehicle concepts, including truck platooning and various types of light- and heavy-duty “driverless delivery vehicles” along with a “riderless delivery motorcycle.”