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January 12, 2021 9:30 AM, EST

DOT Expands AV TEST Program

Agency Releases Comprehensive Plan on Automated Vehicles
AV TEST tracking toolAV TEST tracking tool by nhtsa.gov

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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has expanded the Automated Vehicle Transparency and Engagement for Safe Testing (AV TEST) Initiative from a pilot to a full program.

Launched in June, the AV TEST initiative is meant to facilitate engagement among government leaders, industry representatives and members of the public. U.S. Department of Transportation officials announced the expansion during a virtual event Jan. 11.

According to NHTSA Deputy Administrator James Owens, AV TEST is now open to “all stakeholders.” As recently as September, nine companies and nine states were participating in the program. That has since grown to 52 total entities, including 26 companies, 23 state and local government agencies and three associations. Participating companies include Beep, Cruise, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Navya, Nuro, Toyota and Waymo.

“By partnering on a voluntary basis, we’ve been able to create this initiative and unveil it to the public very quickly,” Owens said. “When it comes to technology, time is of the essence. We encourage everyone working in the [automated driving systems] space, including city and state governments, to join us in this initiative.”

In September, DOT officials unveiled an online tracking tool for AV TEST. The publicly available tool provides data about on-road testing activities associated with ADS throughout the country.

Displayed as an interactive map, the tool allows users to view testing locations and learn details about the companies involved and the types of vehicles being tested. People also can view legislation and policies that states have developed regarding autonomous vehicles. The data has been voluntarily submitted by government agencies and private sector groups.

AV TEST also received a demonstration of support from the Self-Driving Coalition for Safer Streets, which committed to joining AV TEST during the event. The Self-Driving Coalition is composed of companies with transportation and technology expertise, such as Ford Motor Co., Waymo, Nuro and Uber.

Wiley Deck; James Owens; Ariel Wol

Wiley Deck (from left), James Owens and Ariel Wolf take part in the virtual event. (Transport Topics)

In remarks delivered at the event, Ariel Wolf, counsel to the Self-Driving Coalition, announced three companies that specialize in autonomous truck technology — TuSimple, Embark and Kodiak Robotics — had joined the coalition as new members.

“Self-Driving Coalition member companies who engage in AV testing commit to joining the AV TEST initiative to provide the public with direct and easy access to information about testing of ADS vehicles,” Wolf said. “The commitment we are making here today to participate is tied to the voluntary and collaborative nature of the program.”

Also during the event, DOT Deputy Assistant Secretary for Transportation Policy Finch Fulton unveiled the Automated Vehicles Comprehensive Plan, which outlines goals such as promoting collaboration, modernizing the regulatory environment and preparing the transportation system. The plan builds on federal guidelines related to autonomous vehicle technology, such as AV 4.0.

In terms of modernizing the regulatory environment, one objective is to adapt Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations to remove unnecessary barriers to the operation of ADS-equipped commercial motor vehicles engaged in interstate commerce.

“We take seriously our responsibility to ensure the testing and eventual AV deployment is conducted in a manner that maintains the highest level of safety for the motoring public,” said Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Deputy Administrator Wiley Deck. “FMCSA will continue working alongside our fellow DOT modes, partners and stakeholders to embrace innovation to help keep our roads, drivers and nation safe.”

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