Inside Unmanned Systems

AUG-SEP 2017

Inside Unmanned Systems provides actionable business intelligence to decision-makers and influencers operating within the global UAS community. Features include analysis of key technologies, policy/regulatory developments and new product design.

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48 unmanned systems inside   August/September 2017 manufacturers' owners, operators and the spe- cially trained people they hire would be allowed to drive test vehicles. That could pose a risk not just to those on the roads but the industry itself, said Rep. Frank Pallone of New Jersey, the Energy and Commerce Committee's ranking Democrat. "Before we get to the deployment stage," Pallone said, "when we are starting to allow in- dividuals who are not specially trained to oper- ate these vehicles, I think we have to be very, very careful." There are real dangers, he said, of not just injuring people but also of injuring HAVs in the long run by undermining consum- er confidence. WASHINGTON VIEW by DEE ANN DIVIS Preemptions Part of the issue is NHTSA, which eventually will craft the final rules for HAVs, has only vol- untary guidelines at this point. Moreover, the agency is currently leaderless, as the new ad- ministration has not yet nominated a person for the job of administrator. "I am concerned that no one from NHTSA is here to testify," said the subcommittee's ranking member Jan Schakowsky, D-Illinois. "Agency feedback is critical. We need to be mindful of NHTSA's current limitations and work to pro- vide the data and resources it needs to be an effective consumer watchdog as the technology in our vehicles evolves." The other part of the issue, say safety advo- cates, is that the bill would preempt states from passing laws regulating HAVs, even if no federal regulations exists. "If you preempt states then the states can't come in—and they can act more swiftly if they see a problem," Jansy said. "Even if they don't get it totally 100 percent right for all vehicles they may be able to issue something that pro- tects the health and safety of their own citizens in terms of limiting where the vehicles can operate or if they see some other problem that comes up. It would take several years to issue a regulation. They (NHTSA) can recall vehicles right away if they find a defect but it also takes them a long time to find a defect. So in that kind of situation there's no one really to step in if the states are preempted." The preemptions are aimed at keeping states from creating scores of disparate regulations for self-driving vehicles—a hodge-podge that could make it more difficult for firms to develop the new technology and the industry. "We don't know that all of the rules would be different," Jansy said. 'For one thing California usually takes the lead. So right now a lot of states haven't issued regulations and we don't expect them to. So it'd probably be just a few states that are knowledgeable and activist in the area." Ford plans autonomous cars for ride sharing by 2021. Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company. LAWMAKERS: SHORTEN THE EXEMPTION PROCESS In the report acompanying the House's fiscal year 2018 bill for the Department of Transportation (HR 3353) lawmakers expressed concern that the exemption process for automated vehicles was too long. They directed DOT to streamline the application process so they could grant or deny a request within 60 days. They encouraged the department to respond to interpretation requests of existing federal motor vehicle safety standards within 30 days of submittal. Lawmakers also noted that DOT's January 2017 designation of 10 proving grounds pilot sites for the testing of automated vehicles left some localities out. "Several, highly-qualified sites were not included in the initial designation," the report said, and the committee encouraged DOT to evaluate whether it should designate additional proving grounds. They asked DOT to report back 60 days after the bill is enacted. Interestingly, the lawmakers asked DOT to look only at the group that applied to the December 2016 solicitation for proposals and did not suggest expanding the search.

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