Governor Wolf and PennDOT Secretary Richards Welcome New Federal Automated Vehicle Guidelines, Focus on Safety

September 20, 2016

Harrisburg, PA – Governor Tom Wolf today applauded the focus on safety in new federal guidelines on automated vehicles that were released this morning. The guidelines are in-line with work underway since June by the Pennsylvania Autonomous Vehicle Policy Task Force.

“Both we and the federal government agree that safety is paramount as we set policies that encourage and guide the dramatic mobility changes offered by the rapidly developing automated vehicle technology,” Governor Wolf said. “My administration has kept Pennsylvania on a pace that makes us and especially the City of Pittsburgh a global center for automated vehicle safety, testing and development.”

The National Highway Safety Administration today released its 112-page “Federal Automated Vehicles Policy – Accelerating the Next Revolution in Roadway Safety.”

“We are encouraged the new federal guidance parallels the focus of our Autonomous Vehicle Policy Task Force,” said PennDOT Secretary Leslie S. Richards. “We want to assure that technology companies and auto manufacturers have the ability to test the technology in Pennsylvania, but we will not compromise safety, and we are working toward state-level policies to ensure that is the case.”

The task force, made up of representatives from federal, state and local government, law enforcement, technology companies, higher education, manufacturers, motorists and trucking groups, and academic research institutions, is working toward delivering policy recommendations to Secretary Richards this fall. At the same time, the General Assembly is working on legislation that would allow PennDOT to implement the policies governing automated vehicle testing.

Richards said the task force will now work to align the federal guidance with pending policy recommendations. She noted that the federal guidance does not impact testing now underway in Pittsburgh by Carnegie Mellon University and Uber, which is permitted under Pennsylvania law. The pending legislation and policies must be in place before testing can proceed to more advanced levels.

Last year, 1,200 persons lost their lives in traffic crashes in Pennsylvania and one of the potential areas where autonomous vehicles could be benefit is a reduction in those tragic statistics. Various studies and research have pointed to automated and connected vehicles as having environmental and travel benefits in addition to reducing human error in driving. Vehicle functions such as maintaining more consistent speeds, communicating with infrastructure or other vehicles, and allowing highway officials to eventually to invest less in engineering solutions related to human behavior (such as rumble strips) are examples of other potential benefits of expanding these technologies.

The task force and legislation build on current and past studies, work groups and coalitions in which PennDOT has participated. The department currently has representatives on the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators’ Automated Vehicles Best Practices work group; the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials Connected and Automated Vehicle Technical Working Group; the Vehicle-to-Infrastructure Deployment Coalition; the Connected Vehicle Pooled Fund Study; and the Transportation Research Board’s Technical Activities Council on Vehicle Automation.

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