For years we’ve heard about and imagined transportation technology that would improve safety, help the environment and increase travel efficiency. This technology is arriving faster than many of us could have imagined, and this week I joined state and private-sector representatives to announce our steps to put Pennsylvania at the forefront of their safe, innovative development.
Autonomous and connected vehicle technologies, which encompass everything from self-driving cars to infrastructure and vehicles talking to each other, hold huge potential. And their testing and development is already occurring in Pennsylvania, which is why we marked the state’s latest steps at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, where they already developed their own autonomous vehicle.
First, we held the first meeting of a newly established Autonomous Vehicles Testing Policy Task Force that will collaboratively develop guidance that PennDOT will use when drafting autonomous vehicle policy. PennDOT is chairing the task force, which is comprised of state, federal and private-industry officials such as the Federal Highway Administration, AAA, Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) and Uber Technologies.
Additionally, state lawmakers joined me to explain legislation they’re sponsoring in the state Senate and House to establish Pennsylvania as a national leader in autonomous vehicle testing.
The legislation would:
- Provide for controlled automated vehicle testing, not operation;
- Allow flexibility to adapt to changing technology;
- Require companies interested in testing to submit an application and provide proof of $5 million in general liability insurance; and
- Allow support for in-vehicle and remote-operator testing, considered the “Full Self-Driving Automation” level, the fourth and highest level of automation as defined by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
These developments mean exciting progress for Pennsylvania. Various studies and research have pointed to autonomous 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 potential benefits of expanding these technologies.
At the state level, these steps could quickly bring additional economic opportunities as automotive and technology companies, encouraged by the legislation, could establish themselves in the state.
While our daily mission of maintaining a safe transportation system continues, we are also looking to bring the future here, using the state’s rich history of innovation to establish us as a national leader in these technologies.
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