On January 8. 2020, the White House and the US Department of Transportation (“DOT”) released new guidance, Ensuring American Leadership in Automated Vehicle Technologies 4.0 (“AV 4.0”), reaffirming the US government’s commitment to lead the world in automated vehicle (“AV”) technology advancement while prioritizing safety, cybersecurity, data privacy and technological neutrality. AV 4.0 focuses on (i) protecting users and communities, (ii) promoting efficient markets and (iii) facilitating coordinated efforts.

Unlike prior AV guidance, AV 4.0 was issued by both the White House and DOT, reflecting a determination that the development of AV policies is now a government-wide endeavor, being coordinated by the White House National Science & Technology Council. In support of such determination, AV 4.0 adds a focus on the need for coordinated efforts given the breadth of AV-related activities across numerous governmental agencies, including research advancing AV technologies, efforts to enhance and enforce security and privacy, and research and collaboration to address spectrum and connectivity issues.

AV 4.0 has a strong theme of ensuring US leadership in AV development. Even its name conveys this theme. As part of demonstrating commitment to US leadership in AV technology, AV 4.0 announces the intention of the federal government to direct its AV research funding to products produced in the United States to the extent possible (citing to Executive Orders 13788 and 13881), and to ensure compliance with the executive order on foreign-sourced communications and technology (Executive Order 13873). While this commitment may help showcase US products in the AV sector, it remains to be seen whether it will be possible for the US government to reconcile the goals of these executive orders with the need to acquire and evaluate foreign-originated technology in order to understand the full breadth of the global market for AV technology.

While AV 4.0 does not materially change the policies promulgated in Preparing for the Future of Transportation: Automated Vehicles 3.0 (“AV 3.0”),1 AV 4.0 places a much larger emphasis on ensuring that AVs will be accessible to the disabled than was evident in AV 3.0. AV 4.0 further emphasizes the additional public benefits of increased mobility; the need for public confidence in the safety, security and privacy of AVs as a foundation for deployment of AVs; and the economic advantages of AVs. AV 4.0 continues to acknowledge the need to modernize outdated regulations and expresses a desire for “evidence-based and data driven” regulation but provides few details on how the modernization goal will be achieved. The need and breadth of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (“FMVSS”) exemptions for testing purposes is not addressed; rather, there is merely a passing reference to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (“NHTSA”) authority to develop exemptions.

The White House and DOT conclude AV 4.0 with a reiteration of the desire for US leadership in the development of AVs. The government will strive to provide the environment, including policies, guidance and best practices, to allow for the innovation and integration of AV technologies.