There is nothing like the annual North American International Auto Show in Detroit. With all of the latest vehicles and automotive technologies on display, it’s true hotbed of innovation.

Which makes it a good place for me to announce some terrific news about the Obama Administration’s ongoing effort to see connected and automated vehicles developed, deployed, on the market, and available to US drivers.

As you know, last month, Congress passed the FAST Act, which was a good down payment on the future of our nation’s infrastructure.  But, as the President said in his State of the Union address Tuesday night, there is much more work to be done to reshape and improve our transportation system.

Even with Congress’ action late last year, the system’s future is in jeopardy.  Here at the auto show I’m seeing great innovations in automotive engineering, but if we don’t do something different, drivers in the future will not be zipping down our highways, but struggling in traffic congestion and clogging our skies with the greenhouse gas emissions congestion exacerbates.

Meeting the challenge of a transformation to a cleaner and more modern transportation sector requires infrastructure that reduces congestion not by just paving new lanes, but by making better use of the lanes and capacity we have.  Autonomous vehicles offer us a realistic way of doing that.

In his State of the Union address, the President echoed that message. He was clear that we need to put more resources into transportation infrastructure. And today at the auto show, I focused on one piece of that vision – autonomous vehicles.

Automated vehicles promise to move people and goods more efficiently than we are moving them today. That means less congestion, which means fewer greenhouse gas emissions. It also means reduced fuel use and emissions from the rapid acceleration and sudden braking drivers frequently engage in. And, when automation is combined with other technologies like electric motors and innovations coming out of the sharing economy, we will be able to reduce congestion and pollution even further.

Of course, we at DOT also embrace vehicle automation for the lives it will save by reducing crashes. So, how do we get there?

President Obama has a bold proposal (see below), which I announced today. The President is proposing nearly $4 billion over 10 years to fund pilot projects that help accelerate the development and adoption of safe vehicle automation.

We need these new technologies to work no matter where in the US we are driving. The President’s proposal allows us to test automated and connected vehicle systems in different corridors and different states, and to work with industry to ensure effective interoperability.

The President’s proposal, with its combination of public and private effort, is the right way to drive innovation in the transportation sector. Just last month DOT launched our Smart City Challenge, giving medium-sized cities an incentive to embrace automation and connected vehicles as a pathway to our transportation future.  The President is proposing more of this type of funding to equip our cities and states for tomorrow’s transportation challenges, and we think it’s a great way to move forward.

But our Administration is not waiting for the release of the President’s full budget proposal to take action. For several weeks, I’ve promised new steps to support the safe integration of automated vehicles into the marketplace.  And today in Detroit, I announced several of the steps we’ll take in 2016:

  • Today, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration – NHTSA — is releasing an updated policy statement on automated vehicles that recognizes the incredible advances in automated technology over the last few years.
  • In the next 6 months, we’ll offer best practice guidance and propose model state legislation.
  • We’re taking a fresh look at current regulations to see where new interpretations can be made, and inviting manufacturers to continue to ask us to examine other relevant regulations.
  • And, finally, we’re asking manufacturers to request exemptions where they believe automation advances can be deployed safely.

In plain English, this means we are going to do everything we can to advance safe, smart and sustainable transportation innovations like vehicle automation.

Of course, we won’t stop there. This is an exciting time in vehicle innovation, and we will be working hard to make sure we protect Americans’ safety while supporting innovators.

The President’s bold investment proposal I announced today offers us a path toward a transportation future of reduced greenhouse gases, advanced safety, and a nation moving Beyond Traffic.


Secretary Foxx Unveils President Obama’s FY17 Budget Proposal of Nearly $4 Billion for Automated Vehicles and Announces DOT Initiatives to Accelerate Vehicle Safety Innovations

DOT actions revise existing guidance and clear administrative hurdles for new automotive technology

DETROIT – In his last State of the Union address, President Obama signaled his intent to invest in a 21st century transportation system.  U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx today revealed part of the president’s proposal: a 10-year, nearly $4 billion investment to accelerate the development and adoption of safe vehicle automation through real-world pilot projects.

Secretary Foxx also announced that the U.S. Department of Transportation is removing potential roadblocks to the integration of innovative, transformational automotive technology that can significantly improve safety, mobility, and sustainability.  Secretary Foxx made the announcement at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, where he was joined by leaders in technology, executives of traditional auto manufacturers, and newcomers to the industry.

“We are on the cusp of a new era in automotive technology with enormous potential to save lives, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and transform mobility for the American people,” said Secretary Foxx.  “Today’s actions and those we will pursue in the coming months will provide the foundation and the path forward for manufacturers, state officials, and consumers to use new technologies and achieve their full safety potential.”

The President’s FY17 budget proposal would provide nearly $4 billion over 10 years for pilot programs to test connected vehicle systems in designated corridors throughout the country, and work with industry leaders to ensure a common multistate framework for connected and autonomous vehicles.

Secretary Foxx also unveiled policy guidance that updates the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) 2013 preliminary policy statement on autonomous vehicles.  The new guidance, released today, reflects the reality that the widespread deployment of fully autonomous vehicles is now feasible.

“NHTSA is using all of its available tools to accelerate the deployment of technologies that can eliminate 94 percent of fatal crashes involving human error,” said NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind.  “We will work with state partners toward creating a consistent national policy on these innovations, provide options now and into the future for manufacturers seeking to deploy autonomous vehicles, and keep our safety mission paramount at every stage.”

DOT is committing to the following milestones in 2016:

  • Within six months, NHTSA will work with industry and other stakeholders to develop guidance on the safe deployment and operation of autonomous vehicles, providing a common understanding of the performance characteristics necessary for fully autonomous vehicles and the testing and analysis methods needed to assess them.
  • Within six months, NHTSA will work with state partners, the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, and other stakeholders to develop a model state policy on automated vehicles that offers a path to consistent national policy.
  • Secretary Foxx encouraged manufacturers to submit rule interpretation requests where appropriate to help enable technology innovation.  For example, NHTSA responded to an interpretation request from BMW confirming that the company’s remote self-parking system meets federal safety standards.
  • When interpretation authority is not sufficient, Secretary Foxx further encouraged manufacturers to submit requests for use of the agency’s exemption authority to allow the deployment of fully autonomous vehicles.  Exemption authority allows NHTSA to enable the deployment of up to 2,500 vehicles for up to two years if the agency determines that an exemption would ease development of new safety features.
  • DOT and NHTSA will develop the new tools necessary for this new era of vehicle safety and mobility, and will consider seeking new authorities when they are necessary to ensure that fully autonomous vehicles, including those designed without a human driver in mind, are deployable in large numbers when they are demonstrated to provide an equivalent or higher level of safety than is now available.

Under Secretary Foxx’s leadership, the Department has been working to transform government for the 21st century, harnessing innovation and technology that will improve people’s lives.  In 2015, Secretary Foxx refocused the national dialogue about the future needs of our transportation infrastructure by releasing Beyond Traffic, a report examining the challenges facing America’s infrastructure over the next three decades.  This draft framework has already influenced decisions by elected officials, planners, and stakeholders nationwide.

Beyond Traffic

  • US DOT’s 30 Year Framework for the Future

Beyond Traffic is an invitation to the American public—including the users, developers, owners, and operators of the transportation network and the policy officials who shape it—to have a frank conversation about the shape, size, and condition of that system and how it will meet the needs and goals of our nation for decades to come.

Beyond Traffic is a draft framework for the future, it’s not prescriptive.  It does not advocate for specific policy solutions.  Rather, it underscores critical decision points facing the country, by means of data driven analysis, research, expert opinions and public engagement.


Smart City Challenge

Secretary Foxx has also energized DOT’s embrace of innovation to help solve these challenges.  In December 2015, the Secretary launched the Smart City Challenge, a national competition to implement bold, data-driven ideas that make transportation safer, easier, and more reliable in that city.  He also worked to accelerate the Department’s efforts to incorporate vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication technology into new vehicles.

Our Beyond Traffic study indicates that many communities –particularly mid-sized cities– will experience rapid population increases and rapidly growing demands on their transportation infrastructure in the next few decades.  DOT’s Smart City Challenge is designed to help cities begin to address the challenges these trends present.

To show what is possible when communities use technology to connect transportation assets into an interactive network, the Smart City Challenge will concentrate federal resources into one medium-sized city, selected through a nationwide competition. Funding of up to $40 million in funding will go to one mid-sized city that puts forward bold, data-driven ideas to improve lives by making transportation safer, easier, and more reliable.

Additionally, the Smart City Challenge will provide the opportunity to highlight the role of public-private partnerships in addressing our transportation challenges. DOT will partner with Vulcan Philanthropy for this competition; Vulcan is offering an additional $10 million to the winning city to support infrastructure for Electric Vehicles (EVs)

Ideally, the winning city will view Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS), connected vehicles, and automated vehicles as the next logical step in its existing, robust transportation infrastructure. It should also aim to have critical systems in vehicles and infrastructure that communicate with each other, allow for active citizen participation, and integrate new concepts that leverage the sharing economy.

But, all told, the ground rules for this competition are simpler than you might think. We know a one-size-fits-all prescription doesn’t offer the flexibility our transportation challenges require. Instead, we want cities to come up with the solutions that best fit their own needs.

Of course, for the nation to get the most value from this innovative competition, we’re particularly interested in elgibility conditions that apply to a broad range of American cities.

More information on the President’s budget proposal will be forthcoming.



DOT and NHTSA policy is to facilitate and encourage wherever possible the development and deployment of technologies with the potential to save lives. To that end, NHTSA will use all available tools to determine the safety potential of new technologies; to eliminate obstacles that would prevent or delay technology innovations from realizing that safety potential; and to work with industry, governmental partners at all levels, and other stakeholders to develop or encourage new technologies and accelerate their adoption where appropriate. The rapid development of emerging automation technologies means that partially and fully automated vehicles are nearing the point at which widespread deployment is feasible. Essential to the safe deployment of such vehicles is a rigorous testing regime that provides sufficient data to determine safety performance and help policymakers at all levels make informed decisions about deployment. Industry plays a key role in this process by both conducting such testing and in providing data that establish the safety benefits of automation technologies that exceed the current level of roadway safety. Within six months, NHTSA will propose best-practice guidance to industry on establishing principles of safe operation for fully autonomous vehicles (vehicles at Level 4 on the scale established in NHTSA’s 2013 preliminary policy statement). DOT/NHTSA will continue to work with the States, with other governmental entities and with industry to help ensure that this testing takes place in a way that protects safety on today’s roads while increasing safety for tomorrow. The agency will work with states to craft and propose model policy guidance that helps policymakers address issues in both the testing and the wider operational deployment of vehicles at advanced stages of automation and offers a nationally consistent approach to autonomous vehicles. For policymakers at all levels, the governing principal should be that technologies with proven, data-supported benefits that would make roads safer should be encouraged. DOT/NHTSA is committing to proposing this model policy within six months. NHTSA will continue its extensive research program to maintain its broad and deep understanding of new technologies. This knowledge base is essential in the agency’s efforts to determine what new tools might be necessary to ensure advanced technologies achieve their life-saving potential. NHTSA will continue its efforts, in concert with other entities within and outside DOT, to incentivize the development and adoption of technologies using vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications, so that Americans enjoy the full benefits of connected-vehicle safety technology. NHTSA will fully utilize its currently available regulatory tools, such as interpretations and exemptions, to more rapidly enable safety innovations. The agency encourages manufacturers to, when appropriate, seek use of NHTSA’s existing exemption authority to field test fleets that can demonstrate the safety benefits of fully autonomous vehicles. However, it is becoming clear that existing NHTSA authority is likely insufficient to meet the needs of the time and reap the full safety benefits of automation technology. Through these processes, NHSTA will determine whether its authorities need to be updated to recognize the challenges autonomous vehicles pose. This is an area of rapid change, which requires DOT and NHTSA to remain flexible and adaptable as new information and technologies emerge. Amid that rapid change, the North Star for DOT and NHTSA remains safety. All the department’s activities in the area of automated and connected vehicles will keep its life-saving mission as their focus.


- Big news at Detroit Auto Show on automated vehicles by Anthony Foxx. 
- Briefing Room Department of Transportation
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