Department of Transportation establishes autonomous device advisory committee


The U.S. Department of Transportation has established a new advisory committee to come up with policies for autonomous drones, self-driving cars and similar technologies.

Chaired by General Motors Co. Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra, the committee includes representatives from, among others, Zipcar Inc., FedEx Corp., Hyperloop One Inc., Delphi Automotive PLC, the National Safety Council, Apple Inc., the American Trucking Association, State Farm Insurance, the University of California at Berkeley and Uber Inc..

The committee, whose first meeting is on Jan. 16, will discuss policy issues relating to the “pressing and relevant matters facing transportation today,” including the development and deployment of automated vehicles. In a statement, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx will continue the work he undertook while holding the role: “During my time at the Department, we have fostered some of the most significant technological changes to ever take place in transportation, and we did so while keeping our focus on the safety of the American people,” he said. “This new automation committee will work to advance life-saving innovations while boosting our economy and making our transportation network more fair, reliable and efficient.”

Foxx leaves office with the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump Jan. 20, but as TechCrunch notes, the committee would appear to align with the priorities of incoming Trump Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao. At her confirmation hearing, she “repeatedly articulated the need for an open dialog between government and private interests, in order to help the DOT avoid being a hurdle to innovation while still doing its utmost to ensure safe deployment of advanced technologies.”

Regulatory issues facing self-driving cars include moral issues such as when a car should make “ethical decisions,” such as trying to minimize the loss of life in a crash situation, as well as the need to establish new standards for highway signs and lights, new approaches to regulating spectrum, liability, insurance and safety, and potentially revised highway rules and parking structures.

Image courtesy of Uber