PennDOT unveils policy action for automated vehicle safety measures

The multi-step action plan will go into effect immediately

April 10, 2018
PennDOT unveils policy action for automated vehicle safety measures
PennDOT unveils policy action for automated vehicle safety measures

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) unveiled a multi-step action plan this week to establish safety oversight of highly automated vehicles. PennDOT Secretary Leslie Richards outlined the voluntary testing policy at the first day of a two-day Automated Vehicle Summit, held in Pittsburgh.

"Given public concerns about safety on Pennsylvania roadways, we must implement interim oversight policies while we await legislative action on our request for permanent authorization," Richards said.

The Automated Vehicle Policy Task Force, created in June 2016, coordinated with industry, academic and government stakeholders and delivered policy recommendations to the General Assembly in November 2016.

Building on that groundwork, PennDOT will take the following steps over the next 60 to 90 days:

  • Richards will convene a meeting of the testers regarding the interim policies;
  • The Autonomous Vehicle Policy Task Force will be reconvened to update testing policy recommendations; and
  • Until enactment of legislation sought by the administration, PennDOT will ask all testers to comply with the following testing policy. Testers would submit a "Notice of Testing" to PennDOT, with:
    • Basic Information: Name of the company, address, phone number, e-mail; identify principal point of contact for the testing;
    • Verification attesting that the AVs meet all federal and state safety standards and meet the policies adopted by PennDOT;
    • Proof of a driver/operator training program. (PennDOT strongly recommends clean driving records for AV operators);
    • Certification that all drivers have met/passed program requirements;
    • Name of approved drivers, with valid drivers license numbers;
    • List of vehicles that will be involved in the testing and their VIN and/or plate number;
    • Routes or geographic location for testing;
    • Basic overview of Operational Design Domain (ODD) including constraints. The ODD describes the specific conditions under which a given AV is intended to operate, including where (such as what roadway types and speeds) and when (under what conditions, such as day/night, weather limits, etc.);
    • Proof of insurance; and
    • An immediate halt to testing of any AV that knowingly shares hardware or software with a vehicle that is part of a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation.

Compliance with these voluntary policies will qualify the tester to receive an "Authorization Letter" from PennDOT valid for one year, with annual renewals.

PennDOT also will urge industry and testers to:

  • Voluntarily agree to comply with PennDOT interim testing policies and complete Notice to Testing Certification.;
  • Attend the meeting with the PennDOT Secretary;
  • Continue and foster open lines of communication with PennDOT;
  • Coordinate with PennDOT on developing best practices for operating AVs within safety critical locations such as signalized intersections and work zones;
  • Put greater emphasis on developing and deploying vehicle-to-vehicle, vehicle-to-infrastructure, and vehicle-to-device connectivity; and
  • Establish and fund an independent technical review body to promulgate best practices and pledge adherence to its recommendations.

In addition, PennDOT will continue to urge the General Assembly to adopt legislation that provides for AV testing on public roadways subject to PennDOT's safety oversight and requires compliance with PennDOT’s testing safety policies.

PennDOT also will initiate a letter from multiple state DOT and transportation agencies calling for the creation of an independent certification mechanism similar to the work Underwriters Laboratories (UL) does to reduce system failure (both software and hardware).

PennDOT looks to the federal government for these actions:

  • The National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) should revise Guidance 2.0 to make a safety checklist mandatory. It now is voluntary;
  • Congress should amend current AV legislation to strengthen state control over roadway operations with respect to AVs; and
  • Third-party safety auditors should adopt independent certification similar to the work UL does. This would help reduce system failure (both software and hardware).

"AVs hold much promise for enhanced mobility and economic prosperity, but much work remains to be done before the technology matures to the point where widespread use will be accepted," Richards said. "Pennsylvania welcomes the continued testing of AVs, but wants to do so in a way to ensure safety is not compromised."

This is a slightly edited version of PennDOT’s statement, which can be found in its original form here.