US regulators eye new policy for autonomous trucks, trains

Federal regulators are taking the first step toward creating a policy guiding the development of autonomous transportation beyond self-driving cars to include trucks, busses and other ground-based modes. 

The US Transportation Department will soon publish four requests for public comment on how to cast aside roadblocks for transportation advancements in vehicles, trains, buses, commercial trucking and transit systems, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said Wednesday. 

“Right now there are too many outdated transportation rules, terms and concepts that no longer apply to an automated world,” Chao said during a speech at CES, the annual technology show sponsored by the Consumer Technology Association in Las Vegas. “This request for input will help the government identify which regulations, parts of regulations or terminology need to be updated to allow for innovation to move forward.” 

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has asked for comment on “unnecessary regulatory barriers” for self-driving vehicles and how their safety should be tested and certified. The Federal Transit Administration is looking for feedback on two fronts related to automated buses and the Federal Highway Administration will seek public input on how driverless transportation modes should be accommodated on US highways. 

The comments will be used to develop the third iteration of the department’s Federal Automated Vehicle Policy, which Chao said would be released this summer. The current version, released in September, relates only to autonomous automobiles, not buses, trains or other forms of surface transportation. 

Chao discussed the initiatives Wednesday during separate public remarks at CES. Giving the public and industry a chance to make suggestions is part of an effort to prevent government from hampering innovation, she said. 

“We want to reduce the hurdles, the barriers,” she said. — Bloomberg

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