New Transportation Secretary Has Obama's Self-driving Guidelines Under a Microscope

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
new transportation secretary has obama s self driving guidelines under a microscope

Last September, the Obama administration released a list of 15 guidelines to all automakers looking to develop and market a self-driving vehicle. Companies were asked to voluntarily follow the rules and report back to the federal government with useful information. It was a somewhat confusing exercise and raised a flurry of questions and concerns.

At the time, Obama wrote that the rules would provide “guidance that the manufacturers developing self-driving cars should follow to keep us safe.” Not only would the totally voluntary rules show the government that certain vehicles were safe for public roads, but it would show every interested citizen “how they’re doing it.”

That list is now in the hands of newly minted Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. While the two administrations differ in many areas, Chao seems to be of a similar mind as Obama on the issue of self-driving cars. That doesn’t mean the guidelines won’t change.

“This administration is evaluating this guidance and will consult with you and other stakeholders as we update it and amend it, to ensure that it strikes the right balance,” Chao told the National Governors Association yesterday, according to Reuters. These were Chao’s first public remarks since taking on the new role.

For automakers, there are many potential stumbling blocks contained within the guidelines. Some fear it could delay product testing and prompt select states to turn the list into law. Others would prefer to not hand over so much information to the government.

While Chao said that self-driving vehicles could greatly improve road safety, “There’s a lot at stake in getting this technology right.”

The list’s original intent — to inform the public and dispel distrust in futuristic pilotless cars — remains intact, or so it would seem. Chao said she wants industry to know that the new administration “is a catalyst for safe, efficient technologies, not an impediment,” adding, “In particular, I want to challenge Silicon Valley, Detroit, and all other auto industry hubs to step up and help educate a skeptical public about the benefits of automated technology.”

That said, Chao remains concerned about the impact fleets of self-driving vehicles might have on employment levels. Many fields, from truckers to transit and taxi drivers, could see the number of human drivers drop once businesses adopt the technology.

[Image: Volvo Cars]

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  • Rnaboz Rnaboz on Feb 27, 2017

    While watching the Tesla video last month ( it was sped up, about 3 minutes long). I noticed multiple times where the car made bad defensive driving mistakes. Example, stopped at intersections with the wheels turned to the left, waiting to turn.

  • Lorenzo Lorenzo on Feb 27, 2017

    Well, I think autonomous cars should be forced to attend driving school and take a road test at the DMV, just like people. Let's see how they do with a tester who mumbles 'turn left' too late to do it safely to see how it reacts.

    • Psarhjinian Psarhjinian on Feb 28, 2017

      Well, if you can't react to an instruction in time, you just keep going and make the next safe turn. That's the safe thing for a human to do**, and it's what I'd expect the machine to do as well.

  • Tassos What was the last time we had any good news from Ford? (or GM for that matter?)The last one was probably when Alan Mulally was CEO. Were you even born back then?Fields was a total disaster, then they go hire this clown from Toyota's PR department, the current Ford CEO, Fart-ley or something.He claims to be an auto enthusiast too (unlike Mary Barra who is even worse, but of course always forgiven, as she is the proud owner of a set of female genitals.
  • Tassos I know some would want to own a collectible Mustang. (sure as hell not me. This crappy 'secretary's car' (that was exactly its intended buying demo) was as sophisticated (transl. : CRUDE) as the FLintstone's mobile. Solid Real Axle? Are you effing kidding me?There is a huge number of these around, so they are neither expensive nor valuable.WHen it came out, it was $2,000 or so new. A colleague bought a recent one with the stupid Ecoboost which also promised good fuel economy. He drives a hard bargain and spends time shopping and I remember he paid $37k ( the fool only bought domestic crap, but luckily he is good with his hands and can fix lots of stuff on them).He told me that the alleged fuel economy is obtained only if you drive it like a VERY old lady. WHich defeats the purpose, of course, you might as well buy a used Toyota Yaris (not even a Corolla).
  • MRF 95 T-Bird Back when the Corolla consisted of a wide range of body styles. This wagon, both four door and two door sedans, a shooting brake like three door hatch as well as a sports coupe hatchback. All of which were on the popular cars on the road where I resided.
  • Wjtinfwb Jeez... I've got 3 Ford's and have been a defender due to my overall good experiences but this is getting hard to defend. Thinking the product durability testing that used to take months to rack up 100k miles or more is being replaced with computer simulations that just aren't causing these real-world issues to pop up. More time at the proving ground please...
  • Wjtinfwb Looks like Mazda put more effort into sprucing up a moribund product than Chevy did with the soon to be euthanized '24 Camaro.