March 7, 2018

A New Vision for Roadway Safety

Last week, the Department of Transportation held a summit soliciting stakeholder feedback on its forthcoming update to the Federal Automated Vehicle Policy. The Niskanen Center has been immensely supportive of the Department’s current draft—dubbed A Vision for Safety—and submitted comments reiterating our commitment to the light-touch regulatory approach. However, we also believe there are a number of opportunities to improve the next version of the guidance document.

To that end, on Monday the Niskanen Center submitted comments with three recommendations for the Department to consider as it drafts the next iteration of autonomous vehicles guidelines: (1) explicitly embrace the principles of the Clinton Administration’s Framework for Global Electronic Commerce, adjusted for application to the Department of Transportation’s mission; (2) abstain from mandating the use of the dedicated short range communications vehicle-to-vehicle standard for autonomous vehicles; and (3) include specific recommendations for federal motor vehicle safety standards that should be amended to accommodate the deployment of autonomous vehicles.

The Niskanen Center has been particularly focused on the need for government agencies to explicitly embrace the light-touch, market-friendly approach offered by the Clinton administration Framework, which helped drive the early success of the Internet. That is why our previous comments on A Vision for Safety made a similar recommendation for the Department to “explicitly affirm” its “commitment to these principles.” Further, we argued:

An interagency affirmation of the Framework would help buttress support for not only this guidance, but future versions as well. By harmonizing the regulatory disposition of [the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration] and [the Department of Commerce], other agencies would surely follow suit, helping to expedite the development and deployment of not only autonomous vehicles, but numerous other emerging technologies as well. NHTSA should affirm its support for the Framework in order to help tether its current regulatory governance approach to the certainty provided by these tried-and-true principles. If these principles could help the Internet flourish, they can certainly do the same for autonomous vehicles—and potentially many other technologies.

And as we noted in our comments submitted yesterday:

These principles have helped promote the remarkable success of the Internet and can just as easily apply to the governance of autonomous vehicles. Given the Department has already tacitly embraced a soft law governance framework in A Vision for Safety, it should explicitly elucidate its commitment to the Framework’s principles. In so doing, the Department would merely be codifying the work already done in promoting voluntary best practices, industry-led standards, and co-regulatory efforts for autonomous vehicles.

Read the full comments here.