U.S. House Subcommittee to Review How Autonomous Vehicles Will Shape the Future of Surface Transportation

Nov 18, 2013


The U.S. House of Representatives’ Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Highways and Transit (“Subcommittee”) will meet tomorrow, November 19, 2013, to hear testimony related to autonomous vehicles and the U.S. surface transportation system.

During the hearing, entitled “How Autonomous Vehicles Will Shape the Future of Surface Transportation,” representatives will testify from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”), General Motors, Nissan North America, Inc., Carnegie Mellon University, the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials and the Eno Center on Transportation.

Chaired by U.S. Rep. Tom Petri (R-WI), the Subcommittee will examine the potential impacts of the technology on the transportation network and federal policies that may be necessary for their integration into U.S. infrastructure.

Click here to watch House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster ride in a driverless car.

By current estimates, the potential safety benefits from autonomous vehicles cannot be ignored, according to a Congressional memorandum on the subject.  The NHTSA estimates that 34,080 fatalities occurred in America as a result of vehicle crashes in 2012, with human error as a primary cause of vehicle crashes.  One study estimates human error is the probable cause for 93 percent of vehicle crashes, leading to the conclusion that, if human error could be reduced through the adoption of autonomous vehicles, vehicle crashes and fatalities might be significantly reduced in the future.  The NHTSA calculates economic costs of U.S. vehicle crashes at $230 billion per year, based on 2000 data.  

On May 30, 2013, NHTSA announced its preliminary statement of policy concerning autonomous vehicles.  The new policy includes plans for research on related safety issues and recommendations for states related to the testing, licensing, and regulation of autonomous vehicles.  The agency plans to continue autonomous vehicle research activities relating to human factors, electronic control system safety and system performance requirements.

To read the NHTSA policy, click here.

The NHTSA will also offer its expertise to states seeking autonomous vehicle legislation in regard to licensing, driver training and conditions for operation.  Currently, the NHTSA and the Research and Innovative Technology Administration are researching “connected vehicle technology,” which allows vehicles to communicate driving information such as speed, lane departure and environment information to other vehicles on the highway via wireless radio signals.  Connected vehicle technology is expected to complement autonomous vehicle systems to create greater situational awareness for equipped vehicles.

Following is the list of tomorrow’s scheduled witnesses:

  • The Honorable David Strickland, Administrator; National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
  • Mr. Kirk Steudle, Director, Michigan Department of Transportation; on behalf of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials 
  • Mr. Mike Robinson, Vice President of Sustainability and Global Regulatory Affairs; General Motors
  • Mr. Andrew Christensen, Senior Manager of Technology Planning; Nissan Technical Center North America
  • Dr. Raj Rajkumar, Carnegie Mellon University
  • Dr. Joshua Schank, President and CEO; Eno Center for Transportation


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