Autonomous vehicles pose many challenges, GAO reports

Autonomous vehicles pose a challenge to policymakers in terms of infrastructure and safety, according to a U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report.

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Congress instructed the GAO to conduct a study to examine the challenges and determine how the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) can respond to those challenges.

The GAO interviewed auto industry representatives, academic experts, DOT officials, and state transportation officials. The experts recommended addressing how automated vehicles interact with drivers and pedestrians.

It also reviewed the department’s policies.

“GAO recommends that DOT develop a comprehensive plan to better manage departmental initiatives related to automated vehicles,” the agency said. “DOT concurred with the recommendation.”

The DOT does not have a clear plan for autonomous vehicles. It cannot monitor the industry’s progress or respond effectively to situations. Without a plan, the DOT cannot be a leader in the industry.

A group has been formed to develop policies, but the DOT has not announced the scope of work or a timeframe for completing work.

Even without a set policy, the DOT has responded to autonomous vehicle situations. It has conducted investigations in defective driver-assistance technologies and has pursued recalls. The DOT suggested a framework for industry-led safety testing in September and issued voluntary guidance providing technical assistance.