Self-driving vehicles

Today’s your deadline for weighing in on Pa. policies for self-driving vehicle testing

PennDOT plans to respond to every comment.

MJ Slaby

Last month, a task force of industry, government and academic leaders recommended policies for testing of self-driving vehicles on state roadways to PennDOT Secretary Leslie S. Richards.

Then, PennDOT asked Pennsylvanians what they think — and you still have time to chime in. The deadline for public comment is 11:59 tonight. Comments and questions can be sent to penndotav@pa.gov.

So far, about 15 people have submitted comments, PennDOT spokeswoman Alexis Campbell told The Incline via email.

Recap of the recommendations

The recommendations were the result of six months of work by the state Autonomous Vehicle Testing Policy Task Force. Here are highlights:

  • PennDOT would have testing oversight in multiple ways including a testing proposal and contract process, requiring testers to notify the department when changes are made to the vehicles and requiring testers to submit data, including data needed to investigate a crash.
  • The state transportation department and the Pa. Turnpike Commission would be able to restrict routes used by the self-driving vehicles including restrictions that come at the request of municipalities.
  • Vehicles must meet all federal and state safety standards and all PennDOT polices.
  • The vehicles would also be required to have cybersecurity protections.

In an online forum, task force members stressed that real world testing is the best way to develop self-driving vehicles, but safety for all drivers is No. 1. Members also stressed that rolling out self-driving cars won’t happen overnight.

Next steps

The task force will respond to all questions and comments about the policy, Campbell told The Incline. The feedback and responses will be posted on PennDOT’s website, too, likely next week, she said.

Once the task force looks at the feedback, members will decide if the policy needs to be edited, Campbell said, adding that “PennDOT expects that it will continually evolve as needed.”

Currently, the only state law that applies to self-driving vehicles requires a licensed driver be in the driver’s seat. Even when the policy recommendations are final, legislation will be required to put the policies into action.

Task force members are working with members of the state House and State senate transportation committees and other lawmakers, and PennDOT expects bills regarding self-driving cars to be introduced in the next legislative session. Both the state Senate and the state House reconvene on Jan. 23.

Read the task force’s report here: