At the unveiling of the updated federal guidance for automated driving systems, guests (myself included) could walk through a tech pavilion where the products of brilliant computer, electrical and mechanical engineering were on display.   Elsewhere on that Michigan campus, hardware and systems undergo constant testing and refinement in vehicles under simulated real-world conditions.   And that’s an apt metaphor for the challenge we face in realizing the benefits of automated vehicles. 

It’s evident that automakers and suppliers have the engineering capabilities to make driving safer than ever.  The other critical piece - the policy engineering – still needs to be sorted out, but we’re on the right path.  Actions taken by the Administration and Congress over the past few weeks show that a policy is taking shape.  Policy alignment will remove friction from the system and give innovators the confidence to test and deploy these lifesaving AV technologies. We are encouraged that the rules for testing and deployment are being defined, safety assurance processes are being put in place, and that the federal government is leading the charge.  

It’s a little different when it comes to policy toward vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications.  V2V is the code that will connect all road users across all levels of automation.  We have a tendency, when solving puzzles, to look for the missing piece instead of finding a place for the one in our hand.  V2V is very much that piece in hand, waiting to be deployed, but there’s still a lot of regulatory confusion delaying its widespread deployment.  We need to see the same policy alignment on V2V as we have seen come together on AVs. 

Still, the federal guidelines, and passage of legislation by the House of Representatives, are significant steps toward lessening the nearly 40,000 lives lost each year on our highways.