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The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) has tried to keep pace with the evolving technology in transportation, and it has become increasingly critical to provide guidelines that ensure safe design, development, and testing of automated vehicles.

Automated vehicles raise more possibilities and questions than almost any other innovation in the transportation industry. The possibilities include transforming the personal and commercial mobility experience by providing a safer, more efficient way to get from Point A to Point B.

However, there are many questions: Will they fully replace the human driver? Where can these vehicles be safely tested? Where does the liability lie? How will this affect privacy and security? These questions and many more have been at the forefront of discussions for several years now, and the DOT has taken efforts to help address these concerns and to safely implement this automated vehicle technology.

In September 2016, the DOT announced the first of four automated vehicle policies. “Federal Automated Vehicles Policy: Accelerating the Next Revolution in Roadway Safety” was the first set of guidelines that promoted the idea and importance of automated vehicles but also how these advancements can be safely introduced.

One year later, the DOT released the second iteration, “Automated Driving Systems (ADS): A Vision for Safety 2.0.” This guidance built on the previous version, but it provides a more flexible approach to entities in advancing automated vehicle development and testing.

In December 2019, the third iteration was announced, “Preparing for the Future of Transportation: Automated Vehicles 3.0 (AV 3.0)”, which was the first set of guidance that addresses multi-modal forms of ground transportation. This includes not only standard passenger vehicles, but commercial vehicles as well.

Most recently, in January 2020, Senator Chao, the United States Secretary of Transportation, gave a keynote at CES where she announced the next set of guidelines to address the rapidly evolving transportation segment – “Ensuring American Leadership in Automated Vehicle Technologies: Automated Vehicles 4.0 (AV 4.0)”. This is by far the most promising set of guidelines because it promotes the necessity of a collaborative approach. AV 4.0. acknowledges there are 38 Federal departments, independent agencies, commissions, and many other stakeholders who have direct or tangential equities in automated vehicle technology development.

As we have mentioned in previous blogs, advancements – especially in the automotive industry – do not seamlessly occur unless all stakeholders support a collaborative approach. With over 40,000 people dying in traffic related deaths in the United States on an annual basis, it becomes that much more important to understand what measures can be taken to potentially eliminate some of those deaths.

There is no question that automated vehicle technology will not only transform the mobility experience, but more importantly, provide the safest form of transportation. However, unless all key stakeholders work together to safely develop, test, and integrate these technologies, we will not see the progress we expect.

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