DOT, Congress Push Each Other to Do More on Automated Vehicles

  • Transportation chief says AVs are an administration priority
  • Legislation to create rules for automated vehicles stalled

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Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said driving will “unquestionably” include automated vehicles in the future, and Congress must do more to clarify how regulators can approach them.

Automated vehicles are priority for the administration, but the department doesn’t have the framework it needs to clarify its authorities, Buttigieg said. Senators on both side of the aisle pressed Buttigieg on Tuesday about not falling behind other countries as development of automated vehicles advances.

“There is more that we can be doing with our existing authorities, but also we very much believe we need to work with Congress to have a legislative framework that adequately contemplates these kinds of vehicles becoming more widespread,” Buttigieg told senators at a Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee hearing Tuesday.

Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A Cruise vehicle in San Francisco on Feb. 2, 2022.

Legislation to create a regulatory framework for automated vehicles has been stalled for years despite bipartisan interest, and now senators are urging the Transportation Department to move forward on its own.

“My early impression, certainly based on the exchanges today, is that the interest is bipartisan and so my hope is, just as we had a bipartisan infrastructure law, that we might have bipartisan action on AVs,” Buttigieg said after the hearing.

A dozen Senate Democrats last week pressed Buttigieg in a letter to develop a federal framework for autonomous vehicles. Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), who led the letter, asked Buttigieg if the U.S. can embrace AVs while creating jobs for transportation workers.

The department is “interested in making sure that this transition, whether talking about electric or automated, is principally made in America, that it creates more opportunity,” Buttigieg replied. “It can, but we need to provide the right kind of policy.”

Safety Rules

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) told Buttigieg that he has been working to advance legislation on automated vehicles for years, but without it, “it is essential for the department to establish a framework for the testing and deployment of AVs.”

Automated Vehicles Get Streamlined Safety Standards in New Rule

The Transportation Department debuted a final rulemaking in March to streamline safety standards for automated vehicles.

Buttigieg said the department needs more clarity from lawmakers, including how it can regulate the safety of the design of the car, while the state regulators focus on the driver. “That framework makes sense until you have a scenario where the vehicle is the driver,” Buttigieg said.

Companies including Tesla Inc.are working on autonomous vehicles and advanced driver systems despite the lack of regulatory clarity. The Transportation Department has been investigating Tesla’s Autopilot system after collisions.

To contact the reporter on this story: Lillianna Byington in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Anna Yukhananov at; Robin Meszoly at

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