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

new transportation secretary has obamas 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]

Join the conversation
3 of 9 comments
  • 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.

  • Snickel Fritz I just bought a '97 JX 4WD 4AT, and though it's not quite roadworthy yet I am already in awe of it's simplicity and apparent ruggedness. What I am equally in awe of, is the scarcity of not only parts but correct information regarding anything on this platform. I'm going to do my best to get this little donkey back on it's feet, but I wouldn't suggest this as a project vehicle for anyone who doesn't already have several... and a big impressive shop with a full suite of fabrication/machining/welding equipment, and friends with complimentary skillsets, and extra money, and... you get the idea. If you don't, I urge you to read up on the options for replacing anything on these rigs. I didn't read enough before buying, and I have zero of the above suggested prerequisites... so I'm an idiot, don't listen to me. Go buy all of 'em!
  • Bryan Raab Davis I actually did use the P of D trope, but it was only gentle chiding, for I love old British cars of every sort.
  • ScarecrowRepair The 1907 Panic had several causes of increased demand for money:[list][*]The semi-annual shift of money between farms and cities (to buy for planting and selling harvests)[/*][*]Britain and Germany borrowing for their naval arms race[/*][*]San Francisco reconstruction borrowing after the 1906 earthquake and fire[/*][/list]Two things made it worse:[list][*]Idiotic bans on branch banking, which prevented urban, rural, and other state branches from shifting funds to match demands. This same problem made the Great Depression far worse. Canada, which allowed branch banking, had no bank failures; the US had 9000 failures.[/*][*]Idiotic reserve requirements left over from the Civil War which prevented banks from loaning money; they eventually started honoring IOUs illegally and started the recovery.[/*][/list]Been a while since I read up on it, so I may have some of the details wrong. But it was an amazing clusterfart which could have been avoided or at least tamed sooner if states and the feds hadn't been so ham handed.
  • FreedMike Maybe this explains all the “Idiots wrecking exotic cars” YouTube videos.
  • FreedMike Good article! And I salute the author for not using the classic “Lucas - prince of darkness” trope, well earned as it may be. We all know the rap on BL cars, but on the flip side, they’re apparently pretty easy to work on (at least that’s the impression I’ve picked up). On the other hand, check the panel fits on the driver’s and passenger’s doors. Clearly, BL wasn’t much concerned with things like structural integrity when it chopped the roof off a car designed as a coupe.