DOT Schedules March 1 Listening Session on Automated Vehicles

Elaine Chao
(Manuel Balce Ceneta/Associated Press)

Executives from the commercial and passenger transportation industries will have an opportunity to recommend policy directives to federal officials during a forum the U.S. Department of Transportation will host March 1.

The listening session at the department’s headquarters is meant to gather perspectives from truck manufacturers, automakers, groups representing the logistics and labor sectors and commuters ahead of the release of the latest policy guidance on automated vehicles.

DOT Notice of Public Meeting by Transport Topics on Scribd

The event will consist of keynote addresses, an outline of the new guidance, panel discussions featuring experts and government officials and questions from the audience. The event’s objective is to “identify priority federal and nonfederal activities that can accelerate the safe rollout of [automated vehicles],” according to DOT.

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao indicated the new “Automated Vehicles 3.0” will be unveiled this year. There is an expectation the updated directive will expand on previous freight-centric guidance.

The department’s most recent directive, “A Vision for Safety 2.0,” laid out voluntary guidance encouraging best practices and prioritizing safety, as well as technical assistance to states and policymakers. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, an agency that regulates trucking policy, was tasked with working on requirements for the operational side of automated trucks and buses.

Representatives from Volvo Trucks North America will be able to watch the summit via webcast.

“We’re eager to see how the dialogue progresses across the industry,” Brandon Borgna, a Volvo Trucks North America spokesman, told Transport Topics.

Autonomous technology has been a focus of the Trump administration’s policy agenda. Besides hosting summits at DOT, the president’s Council of Economic Advisers acknowledged the technology’s potential.

“The widespread adoption of driverless cars in the U.S. can increase economic growth,” according to the council’s annual report to the president published Feb. 21. “Given their potential to reduce congestion and increase safety, autonomous vehicles are an exciting area of ongoing scientific research.”

On Capitol Hill, senators are expected to debate legislation on the chamber’s floor that would facilitate the development of self-driving cars, and not trucks. The Senate AV Start bill easily advanced out of the Commerce Committee last fall, garnering support from automakers, such as General Motors Co., and technology firms Alphabet Inc. and Uber Technologies Inc. A similar bill advanced out of the House last year.

Freight executives anticipating the mainstream adoption of autonomous vehicle technology have called on Congress to consider measures that would focus on their industry. The trucking industry, for instance, sees the future of autonomous trucks operating on a “driver-assist” rather than a “driverless” model, American Trucking Associations President Chris Spear has said.

It is unclear when the Senate might vote on its bill.