On Thursday, October 4th, the United States Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) updated its voluntary automated vehicle guidance with the release of Preparing for the Future of Transportation: Automated Vehicles 3.0 (AV 3.0).  AV 3.0 “builds upon but does not replace” Automated Driving Systems: A Vision for Safety 2.0, the voluntary automated vehicle guidance released in September 2017.

AV 3.0 now covers additional modes of transportation such as commercial trucks and buses. Transit entities considering the use of automated transit bus systems (see CapMetro’s Project Connect in Austin, Texas) will be interested to see that AV 3.0 states that the Federal Transit Administration will provide transit agencies with tailored technical assistance as they develop an appropriate safety management system approach to ensuring safe testing and deployment of automated transit bus systems.

The guidance also provides that going forward, U.S. DOT policy is that Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulations will no longer assume that the commercial motor vehicle driver is always a human or that a human is necessarily present onboard a commercial vehicle during its operation.  This is consistent with approaches currently in effect at the state level.  For example, Texas law adopted in 2017 states that an “automated motor vehicle may operate in [Texas] with the automated driving system engaged, regardless of whether a human operator is physically present in the vehicle.”

This updated guidance evidences the federal government’s continued efforts to take active steps to prepare for the future.  Balancing regulatory goals of responding to safety and operational issues with avoiding the stifling of innovation will continue to be a challenge which requires all stakeholders, both public and private, to be a part of the conversation in this developing industry.