The Road Ahead for Automated Vehicles

Imagination fuels innovation. Leonardo da Vinci imagined flying machines four centuries before the Wright brothers were born. Some historians trace the concept of self-propelled vehicles to the Iliad. Not long after the invention of the horseless carriage, writers and filmmakers began to envision automated vehicles that could operate without drivers.  

AVs will create the next big advancement in vehicle safety. How can they not?  Driver error factors into 94 percent of all crashes, so driverless technologies can be a key to future road safety.

We will see more and more AVs on roads across the country if policymakers help put us on the right course. AVs will bring more than safety benefits. They will provide broader access to personal mobility, reduced emissions and resource consumption, and continued U.S. technological leadership. 

Innovative automakers, automotive suppliers and technology companies have invested billions of dollars in AV research and development. Those investments are now paying off. Pilot deployments nationwide are proving the technology works. We are delivering our promise.

But we are at a critical juncture. Companies are making key decisions about where, how and when to build and deploy AVs. And they need government policies that will ensure our country benefits from these technologies. 

To help ensure that this nation remains a leader in next-generation automotive technology, Auto Innovators recently released a Policy Roadmap to Advance Automated Vehicle Innovation. It lays out 14 specific policy recommendations that can be implemented over the next four years to advance the testing and deployment of AVs at scale in the United States.

Our recommendations are within three key areas: regulations that allow for AV deployment at scale; federal, state and international policies that work in harmony; and a proper foundation to achieve long-term goals.

The AV Policy Roadmap includes several new ideas as well as new takes on existing ideas. For example, we propose the creation of a new automated vehicle class as the most efficient way to incorporate AVs into the existing federal regulatory structure. We also suggest implementing a robust national pilot program as an alternative pathway to AV testing and deployment under the U.S. Department of Transportation’s oversight. States should be encouraged, and even incentivized, to coordinate with each other across state lines to provide for consistency in state-level AV laws and to harmonize traffic laws and regulations. We also propose incentives for states to update their infrastructure to accommodate an AV future.  

Other policy issues are critical to the broader AV policy discussion, including those that will contribute to greater acceptance and adoption of this technology. We remain committed to working with policymakers and other stakeholders in the coming months and years to advance those important priorities. But we also recognize that those other policy discussions could be rendered irrelevant if testing and deployment of this technology at scale is not possible. 

Our policymakers have done a huge amount of important and groundbreaking work to lay the foundation for the testing and deployment of AVs here in the United States. Our AV Policy Roadmap builds upon that; leveraging that foundation to ensure that the United States is ready to support AV deployment at scale, that our country will maintain its global AV leadership, and that the American public will reap these technologies’ benefits.


John Bozzella is the president and chief executive officer of the Alliance for Automotive Innovation.

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