The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has released its third round of guidance for autonomous vehicles, Preparing for the Future of Transportation: Automated Vehicles 3.0 (AV 3.0).

AV 3.0 builds upon the prior AV 2.0 guidance and is expressly designed to supplement, rather than replace, that prior guidance. As a purported evolutionary step, AV 3.0 distinctly advances vehicle-to-infrastructure communications and commercial vehicle applications by calling for the development of standards and voluntary data exchanges between the public and private sector.

The guidance also emphasizes DOT's commitment to preserving the 5.9 GHz spectrum (5G) for use by transportation safety systems. To the extent that the emphasis remains dependent upon voluntary development and adherence to best practices, however, the guidance is largely aspirational. DOT continues to urge state and local authorities to remove barriers to autonomous vehicle development and to refrain from enacting incompatible patchwork regulations.

AV 3.0 does advance a few concrete positions by which DOT will take affirmative steps in the near future to foster the development and deployment of autonomous vehicles. Acknowledging that the current Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) are incompatible with the future of fully autonomous vehicles, AV 3.0 announces that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) will issue a proposed rule seeking comment on proposed changes to certain FMVSS to remove regulatory barriers. Among the proposed changes are amendments to the definitions of "driver" or "operator" to account for non-human operation of vehicles.

According to the most recent DOT significant rulemakings report, NHTSA is expected to put forward that proposed rulemaking at the end of the month.

Ballard Spahr's Product Liability and Mass Tort Group, and its Privacy and Data Security Group, are actively engaged in analyzing the unique compliance, liability, and business-related issues associated with highly autonomous vehicles.


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