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FEATURE

MANAGING AUTONOMY:

REGULATORS SEEK TO PROMOTE THE AV INDUSTRY, BOOST SAFETY, PROTECT SPECTRUM By Brett Davis words driver and operator “to recognize that such terms do not refer exclusively to a human, but may in fact include an automated system.” AV 3.0 expands its look at automated vehicles to include commercial vehicles and infrastructure and reaffirms the previous direction that the DOT will rely on a selfcertification approach, rather than vehicle type approval, as a way to “balance and promote safety and innovation,” and will push this approach to the international community. It also says the DOT will continue to work to preserve the ability of transportation safety applications to function in the 5.9 GHz spectrum, something that was mentioned by every government speaker at the Automated Vehicles Symposium.

Spectrum squabble

Ray Martinez, administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, said his agency is seeking to remove outdated regulations on self-driving trucks. All photos: AUVSI

Automotive industry regulators, in the United States in particular, are seeking to remove regulatory restrictions on the development and testing of autonomous vehicles without compromising job No. 1 — safety. “There is widespread recognition that automated vehicles will coexist with conventional vehicles and at some point operate side-by-side with them on the highways,” said Nicole Nason, administrator of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), one of several government speakers at the Automated Vehicles Symposium held in Orlando in July. “And to this point, I want to affirm the department’s position this morning regarding freedom of the open road. We want to protect the freedom of all Americans to make mobility choices that best serve their needs,” she said at the event, cosponsored by AUVSI and the Transportation Research Board. The Department of Transportation updated its automated vehicle guidance last fall to the 3.0 version, which provides guidance on technology development and managing safety risks and “clarifies roles to avoid the conflicting patchwork of regulations that hamper innovation and provide best practices.” The latest version reaffirms statements from earlier versions that the DOT will prioritize safety, remain technologically neutral — that is, it won’t specify any particular technology or system — and will modernize regulations, including by getting rid of current ones that may be outdated. The guidance notes that going forward, DOT will interpret the 36

| UNMANNED SYSTEMS | SEPTEMBER 2019

The 5.9 GHz band traditionally has been reserved for vehicle-to-vehicle communication, but the Federal Communications Commission has for years been eyeing part of it for other uses, including faster wi-fi. “I believe that the time has come for the FCC to take a fresh look at this band,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a speech at the Wi-Fi World Congress in Virginia in May. “We should open up a rulemaking proceeding, seek comment on various proposals for the band’s future, and use the record that we compile to make a final decision on how the band should be allocated.” He noted the band has been reserved for vehicular communications and maybe that should still be the case, but added, “I am quite skeptical that this is a good idea.” Instead, Pai said the spectrum could be shared between vehicle-to-vehicle uses and unlicensed devices such as cell phones and internet providers, some of it could be reserved for V-to-V communications, “or we could allocate the entire 75 MHz band exclusively for unlicensed use. Making the right choice won’t be easy.” Transportation speakers at the symposium said the spectrum needs to be available for automated vehicles. “The department wants to ensure there is sufficient bandwidth for automated vehicles to operate,” Nason said. “The 5.9 Ghz band is of “critical importance to us” to reduce crashes, injuries and fatalities — “that’s why we call it the safety band.” Ray Martinez, administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which regulates commercial trucking, echoed that point when he spoke at the Automated Vehicles Symposium. “We must ensure that the use of the safety band is protected,” he said. “We believe that is critical.” The band is used for vehicle-to-vehicle communication,

Profile for AUVSI Unmanned Systems magazine

AUVSI's Unmanned Systems magazine — September 2019