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AV 4.0 Is Out – All Talk, No Action

Last week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, DOT secretary Elaine Chao unveiled the Trump Administration’s AV 4.0, entitled “Ensuring American Leadership in Automated Vehicle Technologies.”

AV 4.0 is different from the prior three AV iterations, which were generally confined to the DOT’s jurisdiction. AV 4.0 was a joint project between the DOT and the White House’s National Science and Technology Counsel, and encompasses the AV-related activities of 38 federal agencies and commissions (including some interesting ones such as the USPS and NASA), and seeks to place those disparate activities within an overarching federal playbook, which are grouped into 10 policy principles under 3 “core interest” areas. Most of the 56 pages in AV 4.0 is nothing more than a regurgitation of the activities of the 38 federal agencies that have participated in AVs.

The 10 policy principles are grouped into 3 “core interest” areas:

I. Protect Users and Communities

  1. Prioritize Safety.
  2. Emphasize Security and Cybersecurity.
  3. Ensure Privacy and Data Security.
  4. Enhance Mobility and Accessibility.

II. Promote Efficient Markets

  1. Remain Technology Neutral.
  2. Protect American Innovation and Creativity.
  3. Modernize Regulations.

III. Facilitate Coordinated Efforts

  1. Promote Consistent Standards and Policies.
  2. Ensure a Consistent Federal Approach.
  3. Improve Transportation System-Level Effects.

What should come as no big surprise is that AV 4.0, just like its predecessors, is nothing more than pie in the sky: it relies on “voluntary consensus standards” – not compulsory federal motor vehicle safety standards (FMVSS) implemented by NHTSA through its grant of federal authority under the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act. There is not a single mention of a proposed statute or rule. Until Congress/NHTSA occupies this space, it’s my opinion that the AV industry will continue to be kneecapped by the lack of direction is required to make substantial progress in moving up the SAE levels of automation. However, in a future post, I will address an attempt by the Uniform Law Commission to harmonize regulations at the state level.