Autonomous Vehicles Task Force sends safety recommendations to PennDOT

Online forum set for Dec. 12

A self-driving Cadillac SRX SUV, developed at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, is seen outside the State Capitol in September. - (Photo / File)

A state panel examining the development of autonomous vehicles has sent its recommendations on policies for safety and testing to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

In response, PennDOT Secretary Leslie S. Richards has scheduled a Dec. 12 online public forum to review the Autonomous Vehicles Testing Policy Task Force’s report.

The task force’s goal is to create a framework for testing highly automated vehicles, or HAVs.

Its resulted from months of collaboration among state, federal, and private-industry officials, such as the Federal Highway Administration, AAA, Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), General Motors, Uber, the University of Pennsylvania, SAE and the Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association. PennDOT chaired the task force.

Key among the task force’s recommendations are:

• Testers of highly automated vehicles (HAVs) must submit testing proposals to PennDOT and enter contracts attesting that the vehicles meet all federal and state safety standards and meet the policies adopted by PennDOT.

• PennDOT has to be notified prior to any HAV being used without an operator in fully self-driving mode.

• PennDOT and the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission may temporarily restrict HAVs from certain routes. Otherwise, HAVs may be tested on any road in the state. Municipalities can also ask PennDOT to temporarily restrict HAVs on local routes.

• Platooning of HAVs will be restricted to two commercial or three passenger vehicles. However, testers can ask to use more HAVs in platooning, but PennDOT can ask for a safety demonstration first.

• The HAVs must be able to record data that can be used to investigate crashes involving the HAVs. PennDOT will have access to the data.

• Testers must certify that cybersecurity protections are in place for the HAVs.

• PennDOT will collect data on total miles operated by HAVs, total number of hours of operation, and size of HAV fleets. PennDOT may also ask for other information such as counties where HAVs are being tested and percentage of testing done on limited access highways.

“Autonomous and connected vehicles will change transportation and could bring benefits of safer travel and greater ease of mobility for all if rules are in place to ensure passenger and pedestrian safety,” Richards said.

Adoption of polices will be contingent on the enactment of authorizing legislation in the next session in 2017.

The online public meeting will be held from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Dec. 12. The public may join the meeting by visiting PennDOT’s automated vehicle testing page, and clicking on the webinar link at the time of the meeting.

Following the online meeting, the task force’s final recommendations will be posted on the PennDOT website, www.penndot.gov.

Roger DuPuis
Roger DuPuis covers Cumberland County, health care, transportation, distribution, energy and environment. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at rdupuis@cpbj.com.

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