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Can government keep up with automated vehicles?

With automotive and technology companies investing millions of dollars into autonomous vehicle capabilities, regulators have a complicated role to play in shaping the ecosystem for self-driving cars.  A new report from the Deloitte Center for Government Insights offers some questions for regulators, researchers and developers to think about as they work to improve transportation and public safety in this new environment.

In September 2016, the Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration laid the groundwork for government’s role in shaping the framework for highly automated vehicles in the Federal Automated Vehicles Policy.  But much more work is needed to establish guidelines for traffic and safety standards, according to Deloitte.

“DOT decided to put out a living document to start creating a framework to understand the technology,” Vinn White, a specialist leader at Deloitte Consulting and a former DOT deputy assistant secretary, told GCN.  He said current DOT Secretary Elaine Chao plans to issue a revised version of the report in the next few months based on comments received from industry and government stakeholders.

Deloitte’s research provides some feedback that could help to shape that revised version. When establishing an operating environment for autonomous vehicles, Deloitte urges regulators and policy makers to address five different areas: vehicle safety standards, liability, connectivity and interoperability, data management and privacy and cybersecurity.

Part of the challenge in developing federal regulations for autonomous vehicle technology comes from the rapid pace of innovation.  With a variety of companies conducting their own research and cities running pilots across the country, it makes it difficult to determine government’s role in regulating innovation and keeping citizens safe, said RJ Krawiec, a principal at Deloitte’s Strategy Consulting practice.

When developing a federal strategy, the report outlined five general principles for regulators:

  1. Invite industry and state and local regulators to discussions to make sure rules are relevant to all stakeholders.
  2. Make regulations flexible to accommodate advances in technological innovations.
  3. Revisit and refine regulations often with an emphasis on outcomes rather than process or product form.
  4. Remain technology neutral to encourage more innovation.
  5. Convene all stakeholders from academic institutions, state and local governments and private sector players together to formulate smart, agile regulations.

The report also highlights some of the interesting programs developed by government agencies, such as DOT’s Smart City Challenge and the University of Michigan’s Mcity research test bed.  Read the full report here.

About the Author

Sara Friedman is a reporter/producer for GCN, covering cloud, cybersecurity and a wide range of other public-sector IT topics.

Before joining GCN, Friedman was a reporter for Gambling Compliance, where she covered state issues related to casinos, lotteries and fantasy sports. She has also written for Communications Daily and Washington Internet Daily on state telecom and cloud computing. Friedman is a graduate of Ithaca College, where she studied journalism, politics and international communications.

Friedman can be contacted at sfriedman@gcn.com or follow her on Twitter @SaraEFriedman.

Click here for previous articles by Friedman.


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