Connected Cars and Unmanned Aircraft Take Center Stage at CES

Autonomous vehicles and unmanned aircraft systems were in the spotlight at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.  As developers showcased the latest technologies, policymakers and other stakeholders discussed the dynamic future of this industry.

Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao attended the event and took the opportunity to update attendees on the federal government’s activities to broaden deployment of unmanned systems.  She began by announcing the release of four requests for input that are aimed at removing barriers to innovation and expediting the deployment of autonomous vehicles.  These are:

  • A Request for Information on the integration of automated driving systems into the highway transportation system;

  • A Request for Comments on automated transit buses research program;

  • A Request for Comments on removing barriers to transit bus automation; and

  • A Request for Comments on removing regulatory barriers for automated vehicles.

The Department of Transportation hopes these proceedings will highlight what specific rules need to be updated or eliminated to help the industry continue to innovate.  The Department will also use these comments to update its “Automated Driving Systems: A Vision for Safety” policy statement. 

Secretary Chao also discussed the latest developments from the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Drone Pilot Program.  The FAA received 150 applications and will select ten lead participants for its first wave of awards.  The FAA views this program as critical to broader deployment of unmanned aircraft, as it will highlight new uses and ways for industry and local government to collaborate. 

Earl Lawrence, Director of the FAA’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Office, also spoke at the event.  He expects new rulemakings this year related to unmanned aircraft, particularly with respect to remote identification and tracking.  He stressed that identifying operators and tracking unmanned aircraft during operations is necessary before attempting other operations, such as those operating beyond visual line of sight.  He also echoed Secretary Chao’s excitement for the Drone Pilot Program, but said that the FAA and its Drone Advisory Committee are still determining what information to collect from the program and how to use that information.  The FAA is, however, particularly interested in feedback from localities. 

Other stakeholders shared their thoughts on how to accelerate deployment of unmanned systems.  Regulatory uncertainty is a major barrier to deployment, so clarity is essential.  They stressed the need for collaboration – between industry and the local, state and federal governments – to address this uncertainty and facilitate safer operations, integrate these systems into communities, and grow these industries. 

CES showed that the excitement for unmanned systems – both autonomous vehicles and unmanned aircraft – remains strong.  Innovation is ongoing, but the right regulatory framework is necessary for it to continue.  The remarks at the convention revealed that government and industry take that responsibility seriously, and are working to create that framework. 

The Wiley Rein Internet of Things Practice can assist parties interested in filing comments to the Department of Transportation’s Requests for Comments and Request for Information.  Wiley Rein’s public relations arm, Signal, can also help with government relations.

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