U.S. DOT releases automated vehicle guideline update, AV 4.0

January 9, 2020

Tyson Fisher


The Trump administration has released an updated version of what are essentially voluntary guidelines for autonomous vehicle stakeholders. Informally known as AV 4.0, the U.S. Department of Transportation lays out which federal agencies are responsible for various areas of automated vehicle technology detailed in previous versions.

On Wednesday, Jan. 8, the U.S. DOT released “Ensuring American Leadership in Automated Vehicle Technologies: Automated Vehicles 4.0,” better known as AV 4.0. The document expands on previous versions of autonomous vehicle guidelines. The last update, “Preparing for the Future of Transportation: Automated Vehicles 3.0” (AV 3.0), was released in October 2018.

While AV 2.0 focused on industry and AV 3.0 introduced other modes into the conversation, including commercial vehicles, AV 4.0 is more of a guide explaining which federal departments are addressing which areas of automated vehicles.

For the most part, nothing from AV 3.0 has changed, including the voluntary safety guidelines for manufacturers.

“AV 4.0 presents a unifying posture to inform collaborative efforts in automated vehicles for all stakeholders and outlines past and current federal government efforts to address these areas of concern,” the report states.

The National Science and Technology Council’s Automated Vehicle Fast Track Action Committee identified 10 principles:

  • Prioritize safety.
  • Emphasize security and cybersecurity.
  • Ensure privacy and data security.
  • Enhance mobility and accessibility.
  • Remain technology neutral.
  • Protect American innovation and creativity.
  • Modernize regulations.
  • Promote consistent standards and policies.
  • Ensure a consistent federal approach.
  • Improve transportation system-level effects.

With such a variety of topics to address, dozens of federal government departments will need to be involved. Regarding autonomous vehicle safety, the usual players will be involved, including the National Transportation Safety Board and the U.S. DOT and its several agencies. When it comes to other topics, less familiar names in the vehicle game are in play, including the Department of Justice, Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, National Aeronautics and Space Administration and several others.

Trucking and AV 4.0

Although AV 4.0 deals with automated vehicles in general terms, there are some areas more relevant to the trucking industry.

Regarding research, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is conducting research to increase understanding of the human factors of AVs. Furthermore, FHWA research addresses driver readiness, the human-machine interface, adaptation to advanced technologies and communication with others outside the vehicle.

Other areas of research conducted by FMCSA includes performance of sensors, brakes and tires in autonomous trucks. FMCSA is also looking into truck platooning, emergency response and roadside inspections as they pertain to autonomous trucks.

Addressing potential job displacement, several departments are collaborating on research on the impact of AV technology on the professional driver workforce. Those departments include DOT, Health and Human Services, Department of Labor and Department of Commerce.

Meanwhile, the Department of Energy has funded the SuperTruck II program. The effort’s goal is to develop innovative, cost-effective technology that can increase Class 8 truck fuel efficiency by 100%.  The DOE has also invested $5 million in truck platooning technology.