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DOT Launches New Automated Transportation Technology Advisory Committee

A driver, right, gets his hands off of the steering wheel of an autonomous vehicle during its test drive in Singapore.

A driver, right, gets his hands off of the steering wheel of an autonomous vehicle during its test drive in Singapore. // Yong Teck Lim/AP File Photo

As self-driving vehicle tests and policy discussions continue to rev-up nationwide, the Transportation Department on Wednesday announced the formation of a new advisory committee on automated transportation technology.

The Advisory Committee on Automation in Transportation will be charged with helping to inform federal policy making. Beyond self-driving cars and trucks, the committee’s work will focus on other modes of transportation as well, including transit vehicles, railroads and aerial drones.

Committee members will assess current research and policy and will also gather information, offer technical advice, and deliver recommendations to the secretary of transportation.

Transportation is currently seeking 15 people to join the committee, with backgrounds in areas like intelligent transportation systems, robotics, “enhanced freight movement,” and air traffic control.

The formation of the committee comes after the Transportation Department issued a federal policy for automated vehicles last month.

Policy deliberations about the emerging technology are taking place at the state and local level as well.

For example, California’s Department of Motor Vehicles on Wednesday held a public workshop to discuss a set of draft autonomous vehicle regulations. And last month, a pair of Chicago aldermen proposed banning driverless vehicles in the city, with a $500 fine for violations.

“We do not want the streets of Chicago to be used as an experiment that will no doubt come with its share of risks, especially for pedestrians,” said Alderman Edward Burke in a statement issued at the time. “No technology is 100 percent safe.”

On Wednesday, the group Consumer Watchdog called for the California DMV to prohibit autonomous cars and trucks without human drivers onboard who could manually take control, until the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration enacts enforceable safety and performance standards for the vehicles.

The Self-Driving Coalition for Safer Streets, a group Ford, Google, Lyft, Uber and Volvo Cars formed in April, has voiced support for the standardization of autonomous vehicle policies nationwide and avoiding a “patchwork” of regulatory requirements.

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