August Recess Winds Down, but All Eyes and Ears on Automated Vehicles

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Automated systems are making their way into our commercial trucks and buses, intriguing both federal and state Departments of Transportation. This interest edges us closer to seeing more of these on the road, which means factors such as safety, regulation, and funding must be taken into consideration.

In recent weeks, we saw the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) send a letter to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai, asking him to dedicate the 5.9GHz band used by connected and autonomous vehicle (CAV) exclusively to these vehicles. This would ensure safe communication between CAVs and the driving environment, keeping these channels free from interference. Opening and sharing the band with unlicensed applications, could compromise road safety.

As the discussion around CAVs increased, ASCE added its voice  by responding to a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) advanced notice of proposed rulemaking on the topic. In keeping with our policy statement, we outlined initial steps on regulating connected and autonomous vehicle (CAV) technology in commercial motor vehicles. Specifically, we urged the agency to ensure this new technology is used to improve human safety. Much like the AASHTO letter to the FCC, ASCE also called for the 5.9 GHz band to be used exclusively among these systems as well as prioritized automation principles that will protect public safety.

Congress also heard from 50 national organizations urging the development of CAV legislation that does not harm safety, mobility, pollution and land use — or increase congestion. Highlights from the letter include its calls for comprehensive safety standards, prohibiting discrimination in CAV access, avoiding preemption of local laws, and giving the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration additional funding and staff to ensure AV safety.

As we head straight into the reauthorization cycle for the nation’s surface transportation programs, ASCE looks to incorporate planning for adoption of CAV technology in our daily lives.

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