September 15, 2016

PUC Encourages Thorough Study, Public Discussion Of Self-Driving Vehicle Services

The Public Utility Commission Thursday issued the following statement encouraging the thorough study of issues related to the use of autonomous vehicles for transportation services, along with a vigorous public discussion regarding the regulatory, legal and technical issues surrounding this topic:
“The PUC continues to encourage innovation and the development of new technologies that support improved public services, and Pennsylvania has been selected as a testbed for research into the use of self-driving vehicles by transportation providers.
“Amidst the excitement it is essential to affirm the Commission’s statutory obligation to ensure that these vehicles operate in a safe and reliable manner.
Any business offering transportation services to the general public for compensation must secure proper authority from the PUC before beginning that service, and clearly demonstrate the technical ability to operate safely.
“To date, no entity has applied for such authority in Pennsylvania, and the Commission has not authorized any use of fully-autonomous vehicles for transportation services that fall under the jurisdiction of the PUC.
“In addition, the PUC’s regulations regarding transportation services are only one part of a much broader mosaic of state and federal laws governing the operation of motor vehicles on our streets and highways – whether by humans or autonomous systems.
“New rules and enforcement procedures will undoubtedly be needed. Any entity applying for authority to operate transportation services must comply with all relevant motor vehicle laws.
“This conversation includes state and federal lawmakers, state transportation and insurance departments and public utility commissions, the U.S. Department of Transportation, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the insurance industry and other stakeholders.
“It is equally important that the general public have input, because they will be impacted as autonomous vehicles begin to appear on our roadways – as passengers, other motorists, pedestrians, bicyclists and bystanders.
“In addressing these topics, the Commission emphasizes the importance of recognizing changes in technology, customer demand and expectations, and competitive challenges – while also ensuring a continued commitment to vehicle safety, driver integrity and adequate insurance to protect the public.”
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