Pennsylvania’s Autonomous Vehicles Task Force releases recommendations


Pennsylvania’s Autonomous Vehicles Testing Policy Task Force has delivered recommended guidance to PennDOT Secretary Leslie S Richards for developing policies to oversee testing of highly automated vehicles (HAVs) and has scheduled an online public forum for December 12 to review the report.

The task force’s goal is to create a framework for testing HAVs in Pennsylvania that balances public safety with innovation, and provides for the flexibility required to keep the state at the forefront of the development of this emerging and potentially transformative technology. The guidance is the result of months of collaboration among state, federal, and private-industry officials, such as the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), AAA, Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), General Motors, Uber, the University of Pennsylvania, Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), and the Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association. PennDOT chaired the task force.

Safety was paramount in the Task Force’s approach. Among its recommendations:

• Testers of highly automated vehicles (HAVs) must submit testing proposals to PennDOT and enter contracts attesting that the vehicles meet all federal and state safety standards and meet the policies adopted by the agency;

• PennDOT has to be notified prior to any HAV being used without an operator in fully self-driving mode;

• PennDOT and the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission may temporarily restrict HAVs from certain routes, otherwise, HAVs may be tested on any road in the state. Municipalities can also ask PennDOT to temporarily restrict HAVs on local routes;

• Platooning of HAVs will be restricted to two commercial or three passenger vehicles. However, testers can ask to use more HAVs in platooning, but PennDOT can ask for a safety demonstration first;

• The HAVs must be able to record data that can be used to investigate crashes involving the HAVs, and PennDOT will have access to the data;

• Testers must certify that cybersecurity protections are in place for the HAVs;

• PennDOT will collect data on total miles operated by HAVs, total number of hours of operation, and size of HAV fleets. PennDOT may also ask for other information such as counties where HAVs are being tested and percentage of testing done on limited access highways.

Adoption of polices will be contingent on the enactment of authorizing legislation in the next session in 2017. Following the online meeting, the task force’s final recommendations will be posted on the PennDOT website, and the public may submit feedback until January 12, 2017.

“Autonomous and connected vehicles will change transportation and could bring benefits of safer travel and greater ease of mobility for all if rules are in place to ensure passenger and pedestrian safety,” said Richards.

“This guidance shows Pennsylvania’s understanding of public concerns and our commitment to being a leader in the research and testing of these technologies in ways that are both safe and innovative. Since HAVs will bring major changes to our transportation system, it is vital for Pennsylvanians to be informed and engaged in this process, so I encourage the public to participate in the December 12 online forum.”

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About Author


Tom has edited Traffic Technology International (TTi) magazine and its Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title, he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs at public agencies around the world as well as CEOs of leading multinationals and ground-breaking start-ups. Tom's earlier career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).