Vehicle automation capabilities have grown rapidly in recent years and have changed the dialogue around all aspects of the surface transportation system. Vehicle automation holds great promise in significantly improving safety on our roadways as well as improving transportation efficiency and mobility for the traveling public. Secretary Elaine Chao and USDOT surface transportation modes are engaging the transportation industry to support advancement of vehicle automation and are leading many initiatives to support it. In support of this effort, FTA is taking steps to ensure the public transportation industry is at the forefront of the technological advancements that automation will bring.
The FTA Office of Research, Demonstration and Innovation (TRI) has recently developed a draft strategic plan for conducting transit bus automation research over the next five years.
On January 16, 2018, FTA also published via the Federal Register two Requests for Comment (RFC) regarding automated vehicles. Comments to these RFCs are due by Friday, March 2, 2018.
The first RFC, Research Program: Automated Transit Buses [Docket No. FTA–2017–0024], seeks public comment regarding the current and near-future status of automated transit buses and related technologies, in particular from parties involved in the development, demonstration, deployment, and evaluation of currently available or near-market ready automated buses; systems and components that support bus automation; and ancillary systems that support non-driving bus operator functions (e.g., wheelchair securement, occupant detection, passenger information assistance, fare payment, etc.). Responses to this RFC will help FTA gauge the transit industry and other sectors’ ability and interest in responding to one or more near-future Notices of Funding Opportunity (NOFOs) for transit bus automation demonstration(s) and evaluation(s) outlined in the draft automation research plan where commercially ready technology and products could be applied to transit to provide early demonstrable results.
The second RFC, Removing Barriers to Transit Bus Automation [Docket No. FTA-2017-0025], seeks public comment regarding current or potential regulatory or other policy barriers to the development, demonstration, deployment, and evaluation of automated transit buses and related technologies. Responses to this RFC will help inform FTA’s approach to highly automated transit buses, including determining whether to pursue potential modifications of FTA regulations, guidance, and internal practices, and may also help inform any future legislation.
Please visit FTA’s Vehicle Automation Requests for Comment for additional information to review the RFCs and submit your thoughts and ideas to help shape FTA’s future efforts.
For more information on USDOT’s overall efforts to prepare the nation for vehicle automation that FTA is actively engaged in, on September 12, 2017 the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released a policy framework, Automated Driving Systems (ADS): A Vision for Safety 2.0, which offers a non-regulatory approach to automated vehicle technology safety. The USDOT is working on an update of this document (Federal Automated Vehicle Policy (FAVP) 3.0), which will include multimodal automated vehicle policy guidance, and intends to release it in 2018.