US Transportation Agency Launches Automated Vehicle Testing Initiative (AV TEST Initiative)

The US Department of Transportation, via the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), has launched the Automated Vehicle Transparency and Engagement for Safe Testing Initiative (the AV TEST Initiative), a program aimed at promoting safety and transparency in the development and testing of vehicles equipped with automated driving systems (ADS). The Initiative follows NHTSA’s prior announcement of proposed regulations that would update and revise safety standards for vehicles equipped with ADS, on which we previously reported.

The Initiative will utilize an open-data online platform allowing participants to voluntarily share on-road testing data of automated vehicles with the public. Data points include vehicle types and uses, dates, frequency, vehicle counts, and routes. Additionally, the platform intends to provide users with mapping tools that will display testing locations at the local, state, and national levels. More information is available here. Per US Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. “[t]hrough this initiative, the [Transportation] Department is creating a formal platform for Federal, State, and local government to coordinate and share information in a standard way.”

The voluntary nature of the Initiative, however, drew immediate criticism. For example, the Advocates for Highway & Auto Safety, a US road safety organization, released a statement noting that “at least 80 companies are testing autonomous vehicles [while] only 20 have submitted safety assessments to the US DOT under the current voluntary guidelines … which have been in place for nearly four years.” Instead, the group urged NHTSA to address automated vehicle testing and safety via mandatory regulations.

Notwithstanding, the Initiative is underway and is open to all stakeholders involved in the testing and eventual deployment of ADS vehicles. Nine companies and eight states have signed on as first participants in the Initiative. The participating companies are: Beep, Cruise, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Local Motors, Navya, Nuro, Toyota, Uber, and Waymo. Participating states at this time are California, Florida, Maryland, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Utah.

Joseph Falcone

Joseph Falcone
Partner, Disputes, New York
+1 917 542 7805

 

US REGULATORS CONSIDER REMOVING “UNNECESSARY REGULATORY BARRIERS” TO AUTONOMOUS VEHICLES

In a move that may accelerate the testing and deployment of autonomous vehicles in the United States, the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) has announced a consultation to consider the merits of removing what it calls “unnecessary” barriers to autonomous vehicle testing, including current safety standards that require a steering wheel as well as brake and gas pedals.

The NHTSA, the federal agency responsible for road safety in the US, is looking to identify “any unnecessary regulatory barriers” to the testing of automated motor vehicles and in particular those vehicles “that are not equipped with controls for a human driver; e.g., steering wheel, brake or accelerator pedal.”  The federal motor vehicle safety standards now in place are based on the presence of a human driver seated behind a steering wheel, and have been considered by many to be an impediment to the development of innovative automated vehicle designs and technologies that don’t require a human driver to intervene or otherwise take back the vehicle’s control.  The NHTSA is also seeking comments on the research that would be required to support the removal of these requirements.  The consultation would inform subsequent steps in the US regulatory process to amend current federal standards “in order to safely lay a path for innovative automated vehicle designs and technology.”

The consultation was announced as part of the US Department of Transportation’s “Significant Rulemaking Report (October 2017),” which periodically updates pending and prospective transport safety regulations, and is accessible here.  The NHTSA’s action follows its September 2017 guidance on autonomous vehicles (available here) to assist industry, regulators and safety and mobility advocates in crafting regulatory and non-regulatory approaches for the safe development, testing and deployment of automated vehicle technology.  In addition, US legislative efforts, on which we previously reported, remain underway and would provide uniform standards for the nationwide introduction of autonomous vehicles.

The consultation period will remain open through 31 January 2018, though there is no timetable for the NHTSA to issue proposed, let alone final, regulations.

Joseph Falcone

Joseph Falcone
Partner, New York
+1 917 5427 8051

Philip Pfeffer

Philip Pfeffer
Partner, London
+44 20 7466 2660

James Allsop

James Allsop
Senior Associate, Tokyo
+81 3 5412 5409