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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