Innovation

US Department of Transportation establishes new federal automation committee

The new committee will begin meeting in mid-January to discuss policies, research, and regulations relative to vehicle automation.

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On Wednesday, the US Department of Transportation (USDOT) announced the formation of a new federal committee focused on the impact of automation in transportation. The 25-member committee includes leaders in transportation and engineering, and will hold its first meeting on January 16, 2017.

According to a press release announcing the committee, the group will center its efforts around how automated vehicles are developed and deployed. It will also deal with issues regarding research in the field, policy adoption, and regulations.

"This new automation committee will work to advance life-saving innovations while boosting our economy and making our transportation network more fair, reliable, and efficient," US transportation secretary Anthony Foxx said in the press release.

SEE: Our autonomous future: How driverless cars will be the first robots we learn to trust

General Motors CEO Mary Barra and Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti will both act as co-chairs, while Stanford University engineering professor J. Chris Gerdes will act as vice chair. Additionally, the committee includes members from other major universities and organizations, as well as representatives from companies including FedEx, Apple, Amazon, Uber, and Lyft.

The full list of committee members can be viewed here.

The committee will undoubtedly be looking at the future impact of self-driving and autonomous cars, but it will also be investigating other vehicles as well. According to the press release, automation may play a role in "buses, trains, planes, and UAS (drone) systems," too. So, it's likely that this committee would be tasked with overseeing some of those forms of automation as well.

"This committee will play a critical role in sharing best practices, challenges, and opportunities in automation, and will open lines of communication so stakeholders can learn and adapt based on feedback from each other," the release said.

The formation of this committee is only the latest in a string of moves that the US government has made to get ahead of the autonomous car revolution. In September 2016, the USDOT unveiled the " world's first autonomous vehicle policy" to address safety and regulatory tools surrounding the vehicles.

Earlier in 2016, the US federal government invested nearly $4 billion in a 10-year plan to support the development of autonomous vehicles. At the time, Foxx said that autonomous vehicles had the capacity to "save lives, save time, and save fuel."

With the plethora of autonomous and automated vehicle developments that happened in 2016 and are likely to accelerate in 2017, it is critical for federal governments to clearly address the technology and seek to provide guidelines for its safe development and quick deployment.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. The USDOT announced the formation of a 25-member committee to oversee the impact of automation on transportation.
  2. The committee features members from top universities and organizations, and from companies such as FedEx, Apple, Amazon, Uber, and Lyft.
  3. The news follows the USDOT's unveiling of its autonomous vehicle policy, and the US government investing $3.9 billion in a 10-year plan for helping with the development of autonomous vehicles.

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About Conner Forrest

Conner Forrest is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.

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