DOT recruiting transportation automation advisory committee

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Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said Wednesday he will create an advisory committee on automation in transportation, which would review existing policy on everything from autonomous vehicles to drones and make recommendations.

“This committee will help determine how, when, and where automated technology will transform the way we move,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx in the announcement. “The Department has advanced some of the life-saving benefits of automated technologies, including automated vehicle policy, but we are looking outside the government for innovative and thoughtful leaders to uncover its full potential across all modes.”

The 15-person-committee would also address issues such as connected transit and automated railroad technology. The department is looking for potential members with expertise in subjects such as robotics, next-generation air traffic control technology and advanced transportation technology deployment. Committee members would serve two-year terms, according to the announcement, and could have up to two consecutive term reappointments.

The Transportation Department has been trying to get ahead on various issues related to transportation and automation, recently issuing its first automated vehicles policy.  

The policy urges automakers to complete a voluntary 15-point safety self-assessment for autonomous cars to “certify that their vehicles are ready for public roads.” It also delegates tasks between the federal, state and local governments.

[Read more: Administration asserts role in regulating autonomous vehicles]

While that self-assessment is voluntary for now, Foxx noted at the time DOT intends to possibly change that in the future.

The DOT has also been trying allow for more commercial drone use, issuing a new policy on small commercial unmanned aircraft that went into effect in August.

[Read more: Commercial drone use expected to take flight under new regulations]

“This is not an isolated set of rules that are taking effect today,” Foxx said at a media briefing at the time. “This is part of a larger administration push to strike the right balance between safety and innovation as we undergo one of the most dramatic periods of change in the history of transportation.”

Foxx said DOT has had to undergo a huge regulatory shift from crafting prescriptive rules feasible with highly developed technologies to drafting flexible frameworks that accommodate emerging technology such as autonomous vehicles or drones.

“For most of the fifty years at the U.S. Department of Transportation, we’ve been regulating mature transportation technologies, and so there was an ability to be prescriptive about how you regulate those mature technologies that you don’t have in some of these emerging areas,” he said recently during a White House-hosted conversation.

[Read more: DOT’s journey from reactive to proactive regulation]

During that conversation, Foxx said emerging technologies like autonomous vehicles and drones weren’t even on the map during his confirmation hearing to become secretary.

“The reality is I don’t think anyone has anticipated the rate of change in transportation when it comes to technology,” Foxx said then. “It’s like the mobile phone was 15 years ago, all that’s coming into transportation so rapidly.”

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Departments, emerging technology, Tech, Transportation Department