The United States Department of Transportation has terminated the Advisory Committee on Automation in Transportation – a committee of industry leaders assembled to help frame future autonomous vehicle policies.
The government agency confirmed to The Verge last week that the Obama-era committee, first announced in January of 2017, had been killed off earlier this year. It held one meeting on January 17, 2017, with the DOT never calling its members to meet thereafter.
General Motors CEO Mary Barra was among the committee’s roster, along with Waymo CEO John Krafcik, Lyft co-founder John Zimmer, Zipcar founder Robin Chase, Uber regional manager Rachel Holt and Apple vice president Lisa Jackson.
Barack Obama’s transportation director Anthony Foxx started the committee under the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) of 1972, The Verge reports. A 2017 press release indicates that it hoped to “serve as a critical resource for [the USDOT] in framing federal policy for the continued development and deployment of automated transportation.”
A USDOT spokesperson told The Verge that such FACA groups can cost up to $200,000 due to travel costs and other related expenses. It also said that instead of relying on a committee, it is focusing on issuing public notices with regard to autonomous vehicle testing on public roads and also looking for the public’s feedback on the technology and the laws related to it.
The spokesperson added that the agency does not need such a committee to get feedback on AV testing, either, as it has other channels that serve such a purpose.
“Based on USDOT’s development and publication of AV 3.0 policies and principles, active stakeholder engagement is already underway,” it said. “Therefore the USDOT does have the ability to obtain broad stakeholder feedback on AV matters outside of the committee.”
Some members expressed frustration that the committee had been terminated when speaking to The Verge for its report and were upset that they weren’t directly notified of the USDOT’s decision. Technology policy consultant Henry Claypool, who was also part of the committee, said the committee’s expense was difficult to justify, however, and was not surprised to see it go.