There is so much happening in transportation and the news transects infrastructure, so we have a lot to talk about how all these events impact your business.
Well, you may remember that last September I dedicated an entire blog to the NHTSA’s (National Highway Traffic Safety Admin.) federal automated vehicles policy. The policy was a sort of first step in creating a basis for industry leaders and governments to work together on developing and instituting autonomous vehicle policies. It was valuable in creating industry best practices that guide manufacturers and other entities in the safe design, development, testing, and deployment of self-driving vehicles.
Now, the Eno Center for Transportation, www.enotrans.com, has released its own set of recommendations that complement the NHTSA’s document from last year. If you’re not familiar with the organization, the Eno Center for Transportation is an independent, nonpartisan think tank that promotes policy innovation and leads professional development in the transportation industry. Last week, the center released its “Beyond Speculation: Automated Vehicles and Public Policy,” which provides a set of recommendations addressing several policy issues that affect autonomous vehicles.
The document is like a guide or a “roadmap,” because it offers 18 recommendations for policymakers—each one focused on a critical issue. For instance, the recommendations focus on things like liability concerns in the case of a crash, cybersecurity and data ownership, safety, and research investment, among others. So let’s dive into some of these recommendations.
Under the category of certification, liability, and insurance, the Eno Center says congress should pass legislation, allowing the NHTSA to issue system certifications to the technology in self-driving vehicles. Further, states should create stakeholder working groups to oversee the development of laws directing autonomous vehicles.
Cybersecurity is another issue we hear a lot about when it comes to self-driving cars. The Eno Center’s roadmap says the NHTSA should explicitly define that the ownership of a vehicle’s data corresponds to the operator of the vehicle. Taking this idea a step further, it even states congress should require the industry to protect the privacy of vehicle owners.
However, it also recognizes the benefits of data sharing, suggesting cities and states establish data sharing agreements in order to enhance local transportation planning and operations. The document also wisely brings up the question of connectivity standards, suggesting the NHTSA work closely with the automotive industry on standards for V2V (vehicle-to-vehicle) and V2I (vehicle-to-infrastructure) communications.
Importantly, the roadmap also makes suggestions about environmental, safety, and accessibility goals. Plus, it touts the importance of funding automated vehicle research programs at local universities. The Eno Center also says federal, state, and local governments should work with academic institutions to retrain workers for jobs lost to automation, and I think this is an important point. There’s a lot of excitement about the future of autonomy, but there’s also a lot of fear—in some circles, this fear is because of potential job loss to machines.
In the automated vehicle space, truck, bus, and taxi drivers, train operators, chauffeurs, and others wonder what a future of self-driving vehicles will mean for them. It’s nice to see that this 18-point roadmap dedicated one point to workforce development.
Finally, let’s talk about what steps the Eno Center for Transportation suggests the industry take when it comes to infrastructure funding. As you know, we’ve been talking and writing a lot about infrastructure lately, and the question of funding is always there in the background. Our infrastructure is in sad shape, and the answer is right in front of us—investment—but it’s still not an easy problem to fix.
This particular roadmap suggests congress develop a per-mile charge fee system on vehicles that are operating with a non-human certification. So that’s an interesting idea—autonomous vehicles helping to pay for the updated infrastructure they need to function to their full extent. As it is, many cities and states face funding hurdles when it comes to maintaining their roads and traffic systems, and it’s likely that automated vehicle systems will require even more investment.
This per-mile charge fee system is the Eno Center’s suggestion. With the money, states would then need to decide how the funds should be spent so that they make the most impact in their particular state. What do you think? Would the Eno Center’s proposal for a per-mile charge fee system work?
Autonomous vehicles will completely change our society, but, as the Eno Center for Transportation points out in its new policy, private-sector-led autonomous vehicle initiatives are outpacing governments’ response and preparations for an autonomous future.
There’s a bit of a patchwork-quilt quality to the various laws and regulations on the state level at the moment, and guides like the NHTSA’s federal automated vehicles policy and the Eno Center’s beyond speculation policy are really important conversation starters for the industry.
As previously discussed, autonomous vehicles offer big promise, but they also raise big questions. There could be millions of self-driving cars on the road in less than 20 years. How are we going to prepare for that? It’s clear we’re going to prepare for it by asking the tough questions and working together to discover the best possible answers.
Of course, we may not even know all the challenges we’re going to face yet as we make the slow shift to autonomous vehicles. But organizations like the Eno Center are helpful in bringing potential issues to the table so we can all talk about it—just like we’re doing now.
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