By Sheryl Gross-Glaser

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What can we expect for 2019? CTAA is peering into its crystal ball and we see a switch from state experimentation to federal oversight and support for innovation as well as greater encouragement of the nascent AV industry.

USDOT: One big announcement in 2019 will be the winners of the USDOT Automated Driving System Demonstration Grants. This program, announced in late December 2017, is partly focused on using AVs to innovate with and improve transportation for older adults, people with disabilities, and rural residents. Indeed, the selection criteria include such factors as “addressing market failure and other compelling public needs” (capitalization omitted) and a requirement that “[e]ach demonstration must include input/output user interfaces on the ADS [automated driving system] and related applications that are accessible and allow users with varied abilities to input a new destination or communicate route information and to access information generated by the ADS.”

These facets of the grant program demonstrate that the USDOT is not merely paying lip service to serious current inadequacies in our transportation system, but that the department seeks to address the problems of our most transportation-challenged populations. The USDOT is also looking for projects that would be replicable across the nation for easy adoption and adaptation beyond the as yet indeterminate number of projects selected for funding.

The USDOT and NHTSA are otherwise expected to continue their trajectory of encouraging AV innovation, testing, and demonstrating their operations for the public. This will likely also be expressed through the different modal administrations. Both NHTSA and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) are planning to publish proposals for in 2019 regarding AV safety, testing, and deployment. These two USDOT modal administrations were mentioned in the Introduction to the Unified Agenda of Federal Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions – Fall 2018, 83 Fed. Reg. 57803, Nov. 16, 2018.

NHTSA is seeking to reduce regulatory barriers and coordinate efforts relating to technology and innovative vehicle design. Ibid. at 57913-14. FMCSA, which regulates aspects of some transit systems that operate interstate (as well as traditional private bus service) will “continue to coordinate efforts on the development of autonomous vehicle technologies and review existing regulations to identify changes that might be needed.” Ibid. at 57913.

Legislation: Passage of state AV laws slowed in 2018 and, with the exception of platooning and studying the topic, will mostly await federal legislation, given that transportation is one area identified for possible bipartisan agreement. As long as no national crises occur, it is likely that Congress will revisit legislation for AVs, though it is not certain that a bill will pass even with further discussion and negotiation on safety, privacy, and cybersecurity issues. Preemption issues may also be a sticking point.

What could tip the balance in the direction of greater legal safeguards are crashes involving not only AVs, but auto-assist technology (such as the Tesla system), which has not received much oversight and which both the public and many in the media confuse with fully automated technology.

CTAA will continue to update its members and those representing transit and transportation service riders about AV developments and what they mean for transit, community transportation, and for those who depend on these services. Please refer below for links to any of the resources mentioned above.

Please contact Sheryl Gross-Glaser at grossglaser@ctaa.org to discuss any of your thoughts or concerns. Listed below are resources for in-depth reading about planning, laws, and other AV developments.

Resources

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The Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA) and its members believe that mobility is a basic human right. From work and education to life-sustaining health care and human services programs to shopping and visiting with family and friends, mobility directly impacts quality of life.