Last month, the Trump administration released an update to its automated vehicle policy guidance. The document, "Ensuring American Leadership in Automated Vehicle Technologies: Automated Vehicles 4.0," reinforces the federal government's previously stated preference for voluntary guidance and consensus standards to be driven from the ground up by industry and other transportation stakeholders.
Thus far, the federal government has taken a light-touch approach to realize the desired economic, safety, mobility and transportation system efficiency outcomes that AVs are expected to bring.
It has issued voluntary guidance, promoted voluntary consensus standards and enforced existing laws.
However, some in the industry have asked the federal government to take a step further and remove existing regulatory barriers.
The restrained approach expressed by the federal government has increased the importance of industry-driven, broadly adopted best practices and voluntary consensus standards.
Advancing these activities is important in order to create a level playing field, help avoid the complexities of complying with a patchwork of local and state requirements and protect the public's interest while AVs are being deployed and tested on public roads.
Industry and Standards Developing Organizations have anticipated this need and have introduced or are developing a variety of standards to address it. Some of the more well-known examples include IEEE P2846, regarding automated vehicle decision-making; ISO 21448, regarding safety of the intended functionality; and UL 4600, regarding the evaluation of autonomous products.
In addition, consortia to develop best practices as precursors to standards have been formed, such as SAE International's Automated Vehicle Safety Consortium and the PEGASUS project funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy.
As industry and Standards Developing Organizations work on best practices and voluntary consensus standards, states are already tackling the challenges of precommercialized AV deployments on their roads, bridges and tunnels. States have developed various mechanisms for stakeholders to collaborate on best practices.
In Arizona, the Arizona Commerce Authority has brought together industry, academia and government through the Institute of Automated Mobility to research issues related to safe AV deployment.
Given the complexity and impact AV technologies can have at all levels of government and on the entirety of the transportation system — including vehicle design, roadway design, operator interfaces, vulnerable road users and cybersecurity — coordination among the many stakeholders is vital to promote safe development and deployment and avoid a patchwork of standards and best practices.
It will require significant industry focus and resources to gather these stakeholders and respond to the challenges of AV deployment given the speed of innovation.
Transparent collaboration and information sharing among industry; federal, state and local entities; and the public will also help cultivate and grow consumer trust in AV technology while setting realistic expectations for AV capabilities and safety improvements.
While the federal government has laid out guidelines and principles for a multimodal AV policy framework and pieces of the framework are being created by the AV developers through consortia and Standards Developing Organizations, these activities ultimately need to be integrated into a comprehensive and consistent framework to lead the way to commercial deployment.
Industry and transportation stakeholders who lead these efforts will help shape and define the evolving road map to AV deployment.