The filing, which also suggests regulatory reform principles and calls for autonomous-vehicle technology to account for level crossings, is in response to USDOT’s request for comment on its recent publication, Preparing for the Future of Transportation: Automated Vehicles 3.0.

“Not only will the public benefit from technology-driven safety gains in the rail industry, but it will also benefit if railroads remain a viable, competitive alternative to other transportation modes, thus ensuring the continued diversity and strength of the transportation network in the United States,” the AAR wrote in the filing, which stresses the need for a mode-neutral approach.

“Increased automation will be key to continued efficiency gains, increased capacity to transport customers’ freight, further reduction of congestion on the highways, and increased fuel efficiency and emissions benefits,” AAR argues. “Autonomous technology has the potential to improve network velocity and fluidity, increasing rail capacity, and promoting the health and growth of the US economy.”

AAR calls for a clear set of principles to facilitate the adoption of safety aiding technologies including:

  • barriers to deployment must be overcome outside of waivers
  • railways and railway equipment manufacturers should be permitted to create voluntary standards
  • regulations should be performance-based, rather than prescriptive
  • regulations must be federal to avoid a patchwork of state and local rules, and
  • the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) must engage in the process.

“Safety is at the heart of all that the industry does, and by ensuring that federal policy enables innovation in the rail sector, we will continue to make a safe network safer,” says AAR president and CEO, Mr Edward Hamberger. “As our filing states, ‘safety is good business, and good business is good for safety.’ We applaud the USDOT for seeking thorough input from the full array of transportation stakeholders and welcome their effort to develop a paradigm most conducive to innovation and growth.”