WASHINGTON — The Alliance for Automotive Innovation is calling on NHTSA to reconsider its plan to end a national pilot program that would allow the agency to facilitate and monitor the testing and development of automated vehicles and assure the safety of those activities.
In a letter sent Thursday to NHTSA Acting Administrator Steve Cliff, the alliance argues that a national AV pilot program is "an important component of a much needed and long overdue federal regulatory framework for AVs."
The alliance — which represents most automakers in the U.S. as well as some suppliers and tech companies that are developing AV technologies — said a pilot program also could enable the safe and responsible testing and deployment of AVs at a larger scale under NHTSA oversight, allowing the agency to gather necessary data and research to establish a longer-term regulatory framework for AVs and tackling consumer acceptance challenges.
The group is asking NHTSA to meet with stakeholders, including the alliance, to create a "thoughtful" program that meets the needs of the agency, the industry and consumers.
"The establishment of a national pilot program for AVs presents a significant leadership opportunity for NHTSA," John Bozzella, CEO of the alliance, wrote in the letter. "The agency can craft a program — from the ground up — that is targeted to address current opportunities and challenges for AVs and help to bring this technology safely to the U.S. market."
NHTSA in 2018 issued an advanced notice of proposed rule-making on a pilot program related to the near- and long-term challenges of the testing, development and deployment of AVs. The agency sought input on the structure of the program as well as potential factors to consider, such as regulatory exemptions and various safety concerns.
The agency is expected to publish a notice of withdrawal from the rule-making in July, according to the spring regulatory agenda released this month.
NHTSA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In December, the alliance released a four-year action plan to guide federal policies and advance the testing and deployment of AVs in the U.S. One of its recommendations was to establish a national pilot program for AV testing and deployment.