WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Transportation needs to develop a comprehensive plan to better manage departmental initiatives related to automated vehicles.
So says the General Accounting Office in a report titled “Automated Vehicles: Comprehensive Plan Could Help DOT Address Challenges” that was released by the GAO Thursday.
Recent legislation included a provision for GAO to review automated vehicle policy and DOT's readiness to address challenges.
The GAO said DOT agreed with its recommendation.
Automated cars and light-duty trucks — from vehicles already on the road equipped with driver assistance technologies to fully driverless cars still in development — pose safety and infrastructure challenges for policymakers, according to literature GAO reviewed and stakeholders GAO interviewed, the report said.
“For example, policymakers will need to decide if the current approach to vehicle testing and standards is sufficient to ensure adequate vehicle safety, according to many stakeholders GAO interviewed,” the GAO said. “Further, policymakers may want to address how automated vehicles interact with other road users. Likewise, automated vehicles may require infrastructure changes, and policymakers will need to decide what changes to pursue, while also providing for conventional vehicles since many stakeholders expect conventional vehicles to remain on the roads for decades.”
GAO acknowledged that DOT had made efforts to respond to some of these challenges of automated vehicles.
For example, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has conducted defect investigations and pursued recalls of some driver-assistance technologies. And, in September, DOT issued new voluntary guidance that provides technical assistance for states and suggests a framework for industry-led safety testing.
“However, DOT does not have a comprehensive plan that sets clear goals, that establishes when and how it will act, or that indicates how it will monitor progress,” the report said. “According to officials, DOT recently formed a group to lead policy development in the future, but has not announced a detailed timeframe or scope of work. Without a comprehensive plan, it is unclear whether DOT's efforts are adequately tackling automated vehicle challenges.
In preparing the report, the GAO said it reviewed selected literature and interviewed 27 selected stakeholders to identify policy challenges and views on DOT's efforts.
The GAO said it judgmentally selected these stakeholders — including state transportation officials, academic experts, and industry representatives — to obtain a wide range of perspectives and expertise. The GAO said it also reviewed DOT’s policy and program documentation and interviewed agency officials. GAO compared DOT's efforts with leading planning principles identified in prior GAO work and federal internal control standards.