Freight Groups Press Biden Administration on AV Policy

By Eugene Mulero, Transport Topics

Freight stakeholders are calling on the U.S. Department of Transportation to proceed with implementing a regulatory framework for autonomous vehicle technology.

The groups, which include American Trucking Associations, point to potential economic and safety benefits linked to nationwide access to the technology’s applications.

“Implementing a federal [automated vehicles] framework that fosters the safe deployment of AVs can help the Biden administration to shepherd in a safer, more environmentally friendly and accessible transportation future,” the groups wrote the department in September.

“As the AV industry moves from research and development to deployment, we urge the department to use its authority to foster a pathway for near-term AV deployment. Providing for the widest range of deployment options in the near term will also help the department gather key data on the performance of AVs to inform permanent safety standards that are both practicable and effective,” the groups continued.

In reaching out to the administration, ATA was joined by:

• U.S. Chamber of Commerce

• Consumer Technology Association

• Partnership for Transportation Innovation and Opportunity

• Self-Driving Coalition for Safer Streets

• American Chemistry Council

• American Highway Users Alliance

• Automotive Service Association

• Motor and Equipment Manufacturers Association

• National Association of Manufacturers

• Intelligent Transportation Society of America

The groups also pointed to improvements related to mobility access for individuals with disabilities and the elderly population, as well as residents in rural communities.

ATA President Chris Spear noted, “We need a national framework that fosters innovation, not a patchwork of potentially conflicting state and federal regulations to deliver on that promise.”

Administration officials have told federal lawmakers they intend to keep collaborating with freight and technology stakeholders on establishing a framework that assists with the technology’s mainstream deployment.

At a U.S. Senate hearing Sept. 22, Meera Joshi, nominated to lead the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, told lawmakers: ‘We’re embarking on that work now to stand up a regulatory framework for [autonomous vehicle] trucking so that safety is No. 1.”

She added, “There is room for innovation so that the crash prevention technology that [artificial intelligence] brings can benefit road users and there are accountability measures, so we understand critical things in an automated world.”

Earlier this year, Rep. Bob Latta (R-Ohio) introduced the Safely Ensuring Lives Future Deployment and Research in Vehicle Evolution (SELF-DRIVE) Act. The bill seeks to create the regulatory landscape designed to assist agencies and industries with the deployment of autonomous vehicles.

“Self-driving cars have the potential to reduce traffic accidents and deaths, increase mobility and improve quality of life,” Latta said.

“Autonomous vehicle technology can protect millions of Americans, while at the same time, providing seniors and those living with disabilities a way to live their life outside of their homes,” he added. “In order for the United States to lead on this cutting-edge technology, we need a framework that allows industry to innovate while ensuring high safety standards. I urge my colleagues in the House and Senate to work with me on this bill to better ensure that all Americans are safer while on the road and have increased access to mobility.”