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U.S. DOT Launches AV Test Initiative

Last week the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) held a series of webinars to launch the start of the Automated Vehicle Transparency and Engagement for Safe Testing Initiative (AV Test Initiative). NHTSA Deputy Administrator James C. Owens stated that this is the first platform connecting the public, manufacturers, developers, operators and all levels of government to voluntarily share and raise awareness of automated driving systems development and testing.

The initiative is also meant to facilitate increased public understanding about the development, safe on-road testing, and deployment of autonomous vehicles (AVs). Throughout the webinars, panelists acknowledged the importance of sharing information with all stakeholders in the testing world, as well as the continued transparency and engagement with the public. According to NHTSA, “Online mapping tools will eventually show testing locations at the local, State, and national levels, as well as testing activity data, such as vehicle types and uses, dates, frequency, vehicle counts, and routes.”

U.S. DOT Secretary Elaine Chao stated that without public acceptance, AVs will never reach full potential. Throughout the webinars panelists stressed the significance of harmonizing the question of the safety of AVs and garnering public acceptance. Dr. Chris Urmson, Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer at Aurora stated that this starts with building a culture of safety. He stated that “we have to develop the capability to move a vehicle safely through the world – on-road testing is such an important part of understanding the requirements and what the real-world will throw at us.” Panelists noted the difficulty in having to predict what pedestrians are going to do, in what environment, and how to react properly.

In Phoenix, AZ and Houston, TX, Nuro has deployed driverless vehicles that deliver goods and run errands. Matthew Lipka, Head of Public Policy at Nuro, stated that 40% of all vehicle trips are spent running errands. In ensuring that these vehicles were safely deployed, Lipka stated that “[we] really want to make sure everyone in the community is aware of what we’re doing before we start – including city managers, and law enforcement, etc. It’s very important that they understand what this vehicle is and how to interact with it.”

In February, the U.S. House Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce held a hearing entitled, “Autonomous Vehicles: Promises and Challenges of Evolving Automotive Technologies,”. Members of the Subcommittee expressed their excitement and the need for autonomous vehicle legislation touting that it will ensure American leadership in innovation, the need for a framework to deploy emerging vehicle technology in a safe and responsible way to improve roadway conditions and reduce the number of pedestrian fatalities. ASA signed on to the Coalition for Future Mobility and the U.S. Vehicle Data Access Coalition’s letters that were submitted to the committee in response to the hearing.

Last year the same committee passed the SELF DRIVE Act of 2019, which passed out of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce unanimously.

To learn more about the AV Test Initiative, click here.