Rep. Lipinski Reacts to DOT Autonomous Car Recommendations (September 20, 2016)

Congressman Dan Lipinski (IL-3) today praised the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) long-anticipated release of guidance for autonomous vehicles. 

“Over the past two years, I’ve been talking to innovators, academics, policymakers, and other mobility experts about what the Federal Government should be doing to promote autonomous vehicles and most say we need to provide industry with flexibility to innovate and local governments with guidance on regulations,” Rep. Lipinski said.  “While we still need more information on how the DOT will implement the guidelines released today, I believe they’ve struck the right balance to maintain safety while allowing freedom to innovate.  If we stifle innovation, the U.S. will lose its lead in this new technology, probably to China.  That means we will fall behind in saving lives and we will lose potentially millions of jobs that will result from the development and manufacture of these new vehicles.” 

Lipinski has held a series of roundtable events around federal policy on connected and automated vehicles, the most recent of which was held Monday in Chicago.  Panelists brought up the need to have a uniform set of state and local standards so that researchers and automakers could focus on innovations to improve efficiency and safety rather than widely varying requirements among jurisdictions.  The DOT included model state standards for vehicle registration in their guidance documents.

Also included was a 15-point Safety Assessment to set clear expectations for manufacturers developing and deploying automated vehicle technologies.  The assessment includes topics such as data collection, privacy, and cybersecurity.  The focus on cybersecurity comes after the Government Accountability Office (GAO) responded to a letter led by Congressman Lipinski that asked about the DOT’s readiness on vehicle cybersecurity in January of 2015.  The GAO found that the DOT had room for improvement on the subject.

“Cybersecurity in transportation is a topic we all should take very seriously, and I’m happy that the DOT is making clear that it must be a priority when developing this technology,” Lipinski said.

One area that will need to be examined further is exemption petitions for existing regulations.  The DOT says in the guidance they would turn around exemption petitions in six months, which may be a long time for innovators to wait in a constantly changing market.

“While the flexibility from existing regulations may allow for innovations in vehicle design, if these take too long to approve it could be a hurdle for American companies trying to keep up with global competition,” said Lipinski. 

Congressman Lipinski sits on both the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee.  When Congress passed the FAST Act last December, he was able to include several provisions promoting connected and autonomous vehicles. These include a university transportation center focused on this technology, a new interagency policy working group at the DOT to promote development of autonomous and connected vehicles, and a GAO study of connected and autonomous vehicle policies.  Lipinski also inserted language into a computer science research bill which allows for research into “smart cities,” which will help support connected vehicle and connected infrastructure technologies.

“As the guidance states, new authorities may be needed to aid the safe deployment of new technologies,” Lipinski said.  “I look forward to continuing to work with Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and with my colleagues in Congress to provide any necessary new authorities and, in general, to produce the best possible environment for America to lead the way in innovation and deployment of autonomous vehicles and other mobility enhancements.  The next important step by the Federal Government will be the release of a rule pending at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) regarding protection of the 5.9 GHz spectrum for use by connected vehicles for dedicated short-range communication (DSRC).  This is a very critical step in ensuring safety and maximizing efficiency in the development of autonomous vehicles.” 

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