The U.S. government is committed to fostering surface transportation innovations to ensure the United States leads the world in automated vehicle technology development and integration while prioritizing safety, security, and privacy and safeguarding the freedoms enjoyed by Americans.
That’s the summary of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao on a new report issued by the National Science and Technology Council and the Department of Transportation outlining the Trump administration’s goals and strategies to ensure that the U.S. government and companies attain and hold a leadership role in the global race to develop autonomous vehicles.
In an introductory letter in the report, which was released at the CES annual electronics show in Las Vegas on Jan. 8, Chao said the U.S. government, “recognizes the value of industry leadership in the research, development, and integration of AV innovations. Such innovation requires appropriate oversight by the government to ensure safety, open markets, allocation of scarce public resources, and protection of the public interest.”
Unsurprisingly, given the Trump administration’s anti-regulations stance, the report noted that for now, anyway, the federal government will reply on the automotive sector and autonomous technology developers to largely self-regulate themselves as they develop new vehicle systems and prepare them for deployment and testing on American roads.
Priority Goals for Safety and Efficiency
The report zeroed in on three broad policy goals, each with a list of desired end goals or actions to be taken to help achieve those objectives.
The first policy goal identified by the report is to “Protect Users and Communities” as new vehicle systems come on line. In order to do this, the report emphasized the following policies:
- Prioritize safety
- Emphasize security and cybersecurity
- Ensure privacy and data security
- Enhance mobility and accessibility
In order to boost competition in the race to develop autonomous vehicles, the report also said the U.S. would “Promote Efficient Markets” through the following:
- Remain technology neutral
- Protect American innovation and creativity
- Modernize regulations
- Facilitate coordinated efforts
- Promote consistent standards and policies
- Ensure a consistent federal approach
- Improve transportation system-level effects
The report emphasized that autonomous vehicle development has many potential benefits for both the American economy and society at large, including improved safety and a reduction in roadway fatalities, as well as improved quality of life, access, and mobility. Other notable benefits include lower energy usage and improved supply chain management.
The potential economic and societal benefits of autonomous vehicles could also be substantial, the report noted, including increased economic productivity and efficiency, reduced commuting time, and even the potential reduction of the environmental impact of conventional surface vehicles while increasing overall system energy efficiency. In addition, the report said, adoption of autonomous vehicles may provide mobility to citizens who currently face transportation challenges, increasing their access to jobs and services and their ability to live independently.
Significant Commercial Impact
If there’s any area of society where autonomous vehicles could have the most dramatic impact, it is likely in the commercial sector, the report said. And nowhere is that potential more apparent than in the transportation of freight.
In the arena of commercial freight transport, the report found, autonomous vehicles have the potential to safely haul freight long distances, which could decrease long-haul transport times and improve supply chain management efficiencies. AV technology also has the potential to dramatically reduce congestion—one of the highest costs for freight movement—and to enable platooning technology that can reduce energy costs.
In order to facilitate those goals, the report said the Trump administration has directed the Federal Highway Administration to pursue several initiatives, including:
- Investigating different roadway/automated driving scenarios with a focus on the data and systems that will be needed to enable ADS to exchange data to successfully navigate challenging roadway scenarios.
- Developing new modeling and simulation capabilities to analyze the impact of connected and automated vehicles on the highway system, including developing new traffic simulation algorithms that incorporate these vehicles and conducting case studies to analyze impacts of these technologies on traffic flow and operations.
- Pursuing an update of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). The upcoming new edition will propose updated technical provisions to reflect advances in technologies and operational practices; incorporate recent trends and innovations; and set the stage for ADS as those continue to take shape.
- Funding grants for through the annual $60 million Advanced Transportation and Congestion Management Technologies Deployment (ATCMTD) program. The Fixing America’s Surface transportation Act (FAST Act) established ATCMTD to make competitive grants for the development of model deployment sites for advanced transportation technologies to improve safety, efficiency, system performance, and infrastructure return on investment.
In all, the report said, the White House encourages a future in which the United States is a global leader in AV technology and will seek to offers autonomous innovators and entrepreneurs an ideal environment to develop and integrate AV technology. At the same time, the report said, these efforts must prioritize safety, security, and privacy for users and communities.
The report by the the U.S. National Science and Technology Council and the U.S. Department of Transportation can be accessed here.