WASHINGTON — The Autonomous Vehicle Industry Association on Wednesday released a U.S. policy framework outlining key priorities for federal AV legislation and regulation.
The group's framework includes several recommendations for Congress and the U.S. Department of Transportation to steer federal action and advance the deployment and commercialization of AVs across the U.S.
"AVs are testing and operating in states around the country, bringing people and goods to where they need to go. America is currently the leader in AV technology, but other countries are surging forward," said Jeff Farrah, executive director of the trade association, whose members include Aurora, Cruise, Ford, Volkswagen, Waymo and Zoox.
"It is time for the U.S. to solidify our leadership," he continued, "and these policy recommendations will expand opportunities for AVs to increase road safety, create new mobility options and support economic growth and new jobs."
The group said it is the first recommended federal framework that covers all modes of AVs, including delivery vehicles, trucks and passenger cars.
In separate letters sent Wednesday to Democratic and Republican lawmakers and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, the group urged Congress to enact federal AV legislation and pressed Buttigieg to advance the safety benefits of AVs through administrative and regulatory actions.
Specifically, the group wants Congress to pass legislation that:
- Reforms the exemption process for vehicles that do not comply with all federal regulations.
- Directs NHTSA to complete rule-makings that modernize certain vehicle regulations to support the deployment of AVs and AV technology.
- Modernizes vehicle laws to accommodate autonomous operation.
- Preserves existing federal agency roles related to vehicle regulation, including NHTSA's authority in regulating the design, construction and performance of vehicles.
- Blocks any government policy, legislation or regulation that would require individuals to obtain a license to be a passenger in an AV.
For the Transportation Department, the group's recommendations include updating certain NHTSA and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulations, establishing a national AV demonstration and deployment program and engaging with other governments and international bodies on AV policymaking.
Federal legislative attempts previously have stalled in Congress, with lawmakers generally supportive of a federal framework but divided over various legal and consumer matters.
Meanwhile, NHTSA does not preapprove or prohibit the introduction of new vehicles or technology as long as they comply with motor vehicle safety standards. Vehicles that do not comply can still be deployed but must first apply for an exemption.
Ford Motor Co. and General Motors' self-driving unit Cruise both have requested exemptions and are awaiting NHTSA approval to deploy up to 2,500 AVs without traditional driving controls or features.
In 2020, NHTSA granted its first-ever exemption petition allowing limited deployment of automated driving systems to Nuro Inc.