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WASHINGTON — Industry stakeholders will assist U.S. Department of Transportation officials in shaping their latest version of guidelines for autonomous vehicles, said Finch Fulton, nominee to become assistant secretary for transportation policy.
The department is seeking comments about its AV 4.0 by April 2. Stakeholder work sessions likely will be scheduled this summer to further develop the guidelines that are expected to be published later this year, Fulton told senators March 11.
AV 4.0 is the most recent set of principles across departments, agencies, commissions and executive offices offering guidance to an industry already testing the technology.
“While keeping safety as the approach — the priority for all of our engagements — we’ve been able to move this throughout the federal government so that all of the tools, assets, research and grant-making dollars that are available, and enforcement authorities that are available throughout the federal government, can be at the hands of all of our stakeholders that care about this,” Fulton, a deputy assistant secretary at DOT, told the Senate Commerce Committee for a hearing that examined his qualifications.
Responding to a questionnaire from the Commerce Committee, which has yet to schedule a vote on his nomination, Fulton indicated the impending update of national highway policy presents an opportunity for utilizing technology to enhance the effectiveness and safety of the country’s transportation network.
With a 2015 highway law called the FAST Act expiring in September, congressional leaders have yet to set up floor votes for its reauthorization.
“Developments such as automated vehicles, drones, hyperloop, commercial space and data initiatives can dramatically change the way people and goods are moved about the country and world,” Fulton responded in the questionnaire. “Many of these technologies challenge the department in new or more sophisticated ways on methods to both prove and improve levels of safety, or in determining what mechanisms are best suited in the department for providing oversight.”
Finch took part in nearly four dozen events in 2019, such as speeches or roundtables, according to background provided in the questionnaire. His experience includes working on President Donald Trump’s transition team and working for former Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.).
Public opinion will be among the determining factors for regulators involved in autonomous vehicles policy, Fulton’s boss, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, explained last month.
“The real challenge is, as regulators, how do we address, how do we engage with emerging new technologies to address legitimate public concerns about safety, security and privacy without hampering innovation? Because innovation is a trademark of who we are as Americans. That is our greatest export,” the secretary said at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Feb. 28.
Commerce Committee Chairman Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) indicated the committee’s forthcoming directive on automated vehicles legislation likely would not include provisions related to trucks and buses. (Senate Commerce Committee)
Despite the Trump administration’s efforts, congressional policymakers have yet to consider legislation on autonomous vehicles. Commerce Committee Chairman Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) indicated the committee’s upcoming directive on automated vehicles legislation likely would not include provisions pertaining to trucks and buses. The most recent autonomous vehicle measure to pass the House, but which came up short in the Senate, also had been car-centric.
Firms researching and testing autonomous technology have offered self-assessments archived by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. These firms include Apple, Ford, General Motors, Mercedes-Benz/Bosch L4-L5, Mercedes Benz L3, Nvidia, TuSimple, Uber and Waymo.
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