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Cities and states seek federal framework for automated vehicles

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Automated vehicles are more than just a transportation problem for cities and states, and could lead to lower transportation revenues and increased sprawl and congestion.

According to Nico Larco, director of the Urbanism Next Center at the University of Oregon, these are some of the possible “cascading” impacts on communities caused by the rise of driverless vehicles in the future.

Larco testified Wednesday at a House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hearing on the “road ahead for automated vehicles.”

On the positive side, cities could see an increase in land availability from unnecessary parking lots as well as more affordable housing and lower greenhouse gas emissions, Larco said.

It was the committee’s first hearing on AVs since 2013, and comes as lawmakers consider crafting a regulatory framework for the growing technology.

“Automated vehicles are poised to transform our surface transportation system,” Del said. Eleanor Holmes Norton, noting that AVs are being tested in 36 states.

Driverless vehicles don’t require new surface infrastructure, but will need well-maintained roads with solid stripes, fog lines and signage, said committee chairman and Oregon Democrat Peter DeFazio.

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman and Oregon Democrat Peter DeFazio said standards for self-driving vehicles should be developed at the federal level, not state by state. Bloomberg

Bloomberg

“The deployment and operation of these vehicles is going to be an extraordinary challenge for federal regulators and shouldn’t be done state by state, we need reasonable guidance at the federal level,” DeFazio said.

Security and job loss captured the most attention from lawmakers, who peppered witnesses with questions about how Congress could save good jobs in the face of automation.

Larco said Congress should launch a pilot program and research what the technology could mean for cities and states outside of the transportation sector.

“A lot of research has been done on audio-visual technology and the impacts of transportation, but what is largely missing and much needed is an understanding of the impacts of audio-visuals on land use, urban design, building design and real estate – and an understanding of the implications this will have on equity, health, the environment and the economy,” Larco said in his prepared testimony.

He cited a 2021 report from the Interdisciplinary Research Perspectives on Transportation that warned cities about losing 3% to 51% of their transportation revenue to the “three revolutions of electrification, automation and of the [ride] share.”

City and state officials urged Congress to fund pilot programs to help develop national safety guidelines, worker training programs and a strong vision as technology continues to develop.

States “firmly believe” that audio-visual vehicles — especially connected autonomous vehicles, or CANs — will improve the safety, fairness and sustainability of the nation’s transportation system, said Scott Marler, director of the Department of Transportation’s transportation. ‘Iowa, who spoke on behalf of the American Association. state highway and transportation officials.

But the “pathway and timing” of the rollout remains unclear, as high-level AVs are unlikely to be commercially available for many years, he said.

Meanwhile, AASHTO is pushing for a national strategy and vision, developed with input from all levels of government, Marler said.

States also want more flexibility and federal funding — not necessarily through discretionary grant programs — to invest in needed infrastructure, he said.

The organization also wants Congress to preserve the 5.9 GHz band of wireless spectrum for transportation communication needs. AASHTO is currently in court fighting the Federal Communication Commission’s 2020 order that opened up spectrum to unlicensed devices.

The National League of Cities also urged Congress and the U.S. Department of Transportation to fund a national pilot program that spans across the country, in different climates, to develop strong federal safety guidelines. Martha Castex-Tatum, acting vice mayor of Houston, called cities “ideal laboratories” for testing new mobility models like AVs.

Castex-Tatum urged Congress to pass a FY22 appropriations bill to properly support the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. “At the local level, we stand ready to do everything we can to reduce deaths using every possible strategy, including audio-visual vehicles, but we need Congress to do its basic tasks here in Washington so that we can move forward. the benefits of the bipartisan infrastructure bill,” she said.