Robert Fischer, President GTiMA

With Biden’s inauguration around the corner and mounting expectations for his Secretary of Transportation nominee Pete Buttigieg, the U.S. Department of Transportation released its new Automated Vehicles Comprehensive Plan on January 11. The report highlights the agency’s strategy to ensure the safe rollout of automated driving systems.

“The AVCP lays out the department’s robust multimodal strategy to promote collaboration and transparency, modernize the regulatory environment, and prepare the transportation system for the safe integration of Automated Driving Systems (ADS),” according to a department press release. “The AVCP builds on the U.S. Government’s core principles related to automated vehicles, outlined in Ensuring American Leadership in Automated Vehicle Technologies: Automated Vehicles 4.0 (AV 4.0),” the release continued.

But unlike the “core principles” outlined in AV 4.0, the plan presents clear actions the department is pursuing to ensure the safe integration of automated driving systems into the transportation system. For example, the department is proposing several updates to the Federal Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), including pavement markings on all roads with a posted speed above 40 mph be 6″ wide; chevron markings in all transition areas are now recommended; and dotted edge line extensions on highway exit and entrance ramps would be mandatory, not optional.

The report also highlights five use cases that demonstrate how the department is currently supporting ADS development and outlines key initiatives the U.S. DOT has leveraged to obtain input from a diverse range of stakeholders, including across industry and other governmental agencies.

The plan comes on the heels of another U.S. DOT report published in December, which summarizes findings from the 2019 CV/AV Survey administered to agencies from 78 large metropolitan areas and 30 medium-size cities.

Overall, one-quarter of agencies surveyed reported they have deployed connected vehicles, and another 30% saying they plan to deploy CVs in the future. Among the agency types, freeway agencies currently lead in CV activities, with 65% deploying or planning to deploy, compared to around half of arterial and transit agencies.

Over one-third (39%) report AV testing or deployment occurring in their region or state among all the surveyed agencies. However, only 14% report active involvement in the testing; 10% support the AV testing, and 4% lead the AV testing. The remaining 25% of agencies are not involved in the AV testing.

The release of these reports has stakeholders arguing it is time for Congress to provide a robust infrastructure reauthorization bill to support the safe deployment of these next-generation transportation technologies.

The AVCP will be published in the Federal Register for public review and comment.


Robert Fischer is President of GTiMA, a Technology and Policy Advisor to Mandli Communications, and an Associate Editor of the SAE International Journal of Connected and Autonomous Vehicles. Follow Rob on Twitter (@Robfischeris) and Linkedin.