Senate Committee Holds Hearing on Automated Vehicles

Nov 22, 2019

by ASME.org

Last week, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation held a hearing titled “Highly Automated Vehicles: Federal Perspectives on Deployment of Safety Technology.” The hearing examined the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the National Transportation Safety Board’s perspectives on the safe testing and deployment of highly automated vehicles (AVs). Three witnesses, all Federal government officials, discussed recommendations for realizing the potential safety, mobility, and efficiency benefits of AVs.
 
Committee Chairman Roger Wicker (R-MS) opened the hearing inviting the witness to update the Committee on DOT’s efforts to oversee and regulate AVs. He asked them to share recommendations with Congress as to how the Federal government can support DOT’s work on AVs and share information that may instruct Congress’s work on AV legislation. He specifically mentioned that Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and John Thune (R-SD) are working to update the AV START Act introduced in the previous Congress to set up a Federal framework to test AVs and ensure their safety. The Senators are working closely with the House Energy and Commerce Committee to pursue a bipartisan, bicameral approach to developing a Federal framework governing the safety of automatic vehicles.
 
The Honorable Robert Sumwalt, Chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) too testified, stating that in the absence of Federal automated driving system safety standards many states have begun legislating their own requirements for AV testing. He says that the Federal government has enormous potential to mitigate safety risks with proper oversight and outlined suggestions as to how DOT and NTSB can work to achieve greater levels of safety in AV integration.
 
The Honorable Joel Szabat, Acting Under Secretary of Transportation for Policy at DOT, shared ways that DOT is working to align SV policy across the Federal government. He shared that DOT is working with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) to catalogue and align all of the activities among all of our Federal partners to ensure they are aligned under one set of principles, and that DOT is developing a comprehensive plan for the safe and full integration of automated vehicle technology into our national transportation system.
 
Dr. James Owens, Acting Administrator, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) at DOT, noted that consumer education is important in ensuring that AV technology is used in a way that enhances safety while realizing that it may not always work as designed or advertised. He shared that NHTSA is working diligently to support the safe development, deployment, and oversight of AV technologies and shared the many ways NHTSA is doing this.
 
For more specifics on this hearing, please see the archived recording and documents at: https://www.commerce.senate.gov/2019/11/committee-announces-hearing-on-automated-vehicles.
 

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