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Remarks from Acting Federal Highway Administrator
Brandye Hendrickson

National Dialogue on Highway Automation

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Thank you, Martin! A big shout out to you and the rest of the F-H-W-A Team involved in organizing these National Dialogue workshops.

You’ve really outdone yourselves! The agenda is tremendous and truly a testament to how important it is that we have engagement with our state partners and stakeholders on automated and connected vehicles.

It’s appropriate that we’re in the Arizona today having this conversation.

This state is a leader in automated vehicle testing. Visionary companies in Arizona’s technology and transportation industry – like Waymo, Intel and General Motors – are paving the way for the future of transportation.

And under Governor Ducey’s leadership, Arizona has expanded its role in the testing of automated vehicle technology by creating a climate that encourages and welcomes even greater innovation.

I want to thank Arizona D-O-T Director John Halikowski for his participation in the National Dialogue and recognize him for forward-thinking approaches to leading ADOT. He’s also an example of the close working relationship we strive for with our state CEOs.

I also want to acknowledge the great work that F-H-W-A Division Administrator Karla Petty and her team are doing for Arizona. Thanks for being here with us, Karla and team.

It’s an exciting time for our nation’s transportation system.

Automated technology—including automated cars, trucks and drones—has the potential to revolutionize the way we travel, transport goods and connect with one another.

These new technologies hold the promise of saving lives, while making travel more convenient and efficient.

They have the potential to help reduce highway fatalities and injuries by addressing human error.

Among the benefits, access to transportation could be improved — especially for the elderly and people with disabilities.

Earlier this month, U-S-D-O-T’s Secretary Elaine Chao unveiled the Department’s new automated vehicle guidance -- Preparing for the Future of Transportation: Automated Vehicles 3.0.

Automated vehicle technology is moving forward rapidly, so the Department will not be standing still.

The document supports the safe, reliable and cost-effective integration of automation into all modes of American transportation.

The release of AV 3.0 addresses safety and innovation by focusing on three main areas.

First, it lays out guidance for automated vehicle development across all modes. And it describes the Department’s approach to managing safety risks along the path to the full commercial integration of AV technology.

Second, it reduces policy uncertainty and clarifies roles to help avoid a conflicting patchwork of regulations that hamper innovation. It also aids innovators in working out common voluntary standards. And it provides best practices for state and local governments, the private sector and innovators.

Third, it outlines a process for working with the Department to create a path forward.

It gives innovators guidance on which operating administration, or mode, within DOT handles the relevant AV policies. And it highlights the Department’s approach to resolving novel issues that may arise.

AV 3.0 has been posted in the Federal Register for public comment. Your comments and thoughts are welcome, and will be incorporated into the next version of this guidance.

The A-V 3.0 vision calls for the F-H-W-A to have a key role in “smart” infrastructure because of our work in administering the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices – or the M-U-T-C-D.

In line with that vision -- F-H-W-A announced that we will pursue an update to the M-U-T-C-D that will take the needs of new technologies and other innovations into account.

The new manual will be forward-looking and nimble in accommodating the technologies needed to support highway connectivity, automation and innovations. This new edition literally lays the groundwork for the 21st century’s transportation infrastructure.

For decades to come – likely in our entire lifetimes – automated vehicles will coexist with conventional vehicles and operate side-by-side with them on the highways.

This is relevant to the discussion at this two-day workshop, particularly for issues related to mixed-fleet traffic.

The Department staunchly believes in the freedom of the open road, which includes the freedom for Americans to drive their own vehicles and make the mobility choices that best suit their needs.

We cannot assume the universal adoption of automated vehicle technology – and must prepare for that as well.

As Secretary Chao has mentioned many times -- the Department’s approach to new technology is tech neutral -- not top down, command and control.

We are not in the business of picking winners and losers. Consumers and users ultimately will decide which technology or method or mode suits them best.

I want to underscore that safety is and always will be our primary goal.

While the potential benefits of automated vehicle technology in saving lives are tremendous -- there are also challenges as the technology advances.

Nearly three quarters of American drivers reported they were afraid to ride in a fully self-driving vehicle. That’s why we have consistently challenged the AV community to step up and address the public’s legitimate concerns about the safety, security and privacy of this new technology. Without public acceptance, the full potential of these technologies will never be realized.

Transportation agencies and industry will need to address an array of legitimate concerns while the technology evolves.

It will continue to be a delicate balance.

We need to give the technology room to grow.

Every single life lost is one too many, but the promise that innovation holds gives us hope.

The Federal Highway Administration launched its National Dialogue series to take a leadership role in convening industry and stakeholders and encouraging collaboration.

Our National Dialogue series is a key part of F-H-W-A’s efforts to prepare for the impacts of automation and connectivity and is a continuing conversation.

The Dialogue is designed to allow for more in-depth discussions on some of the key areas of interest and concern related to automated vehicles.

And it builds on our efforts earlier this year with the Request for Information on a range of issues related to enabling safe and efficient automation on roadways.

This is truly an effort to have real discussions on the pressing issues that will drive future actions—because everything we learn today will be used to help inform, F-H-W-A research, policy and programs.

As industry continues to develop, test and deploy new technologies – we want to understand these issues, as well as how they will affect the many state and local agencies and tribal partners responsible for maintaining and operating the nation’s roadways.

Here, in Arizona, the discussion will focus on traffic operations -- but the Dialogue series has covered an array of areas related to automated vehicles.

Just this week F-H-W-A announced it was making a new open source software platform available to reduce congestion and improve safety by advancing and refining the communications technology used with automated vehicles.

Cooperative Automation Research Mobility Applications—or CARMA—is a tool for industry and public agencies involved in cooperative automation research and testing. CARMA is the result of five years of federal research into automation.

In addition to contributing to the advancement of the technology, we can also provide technical expertise and promote the sharing of noteworthy practices among the states, so they can learn about A-V adoption and implementation from each other.

As this technology advances, F-H-W-A is uniquely positioned to serve the highway community and transportation agencies in this way.

Before I go, I want to thank you again for joining us today.

Together, we are advancing one of the greatest technological changes in transportation history. This is why it is so important for us to hear from you.

Your input is critical to helping us make informed national policy decisions… because we know that what is discussed here will help to shape the future of automated vehicles in the United States.

Before I sit down, I want to encourage you all to actively engage in today’s discussions and activities. We have a full and exciting agenda planned for you and the more actively you participate, the more valuable this event will be.

You are not just making history. You’re helping us make a better future.

Thank you.

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FHWA Briefing Room | Speeches and Testimony

Page last modified on October 26, 2018
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