Until recently, self-driving cars were frowned upon by federal transportation officials, who are now reconsidering their position on this matter, hoping to be able to place the promising technology into the public’s hands.
- Federal transportation officials are more ready to embrace the self-driving technology
- Drafts of the update on the official policy statement are due by this year’s end
- California’s DMV seeks federal guidance in upgrading the cars from limited road tests to broader adoption
According to the official policy statement of the official policy statement published in May 2013, these cars should not outrank their testing status, denying their use “by members of the public for general driving purposes,” a statement that struck a rather cautious tone.
On Tuesday, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said that given the technology’s rapid development in the past two years, however, the federal policy is now being updated. In spite of remaining “obviously vigilant on the safety front,” the agency is ready to embrace the innovations with more open arms.
Details of the new policy are yet to be revealed, but Foxx is clearly intrigued by the fast-emerging technology, which has driven him to ready the update in a matter of weeks, not months. The new rules regarding self-driving cars will be overseen by Foxx’s department, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Prototypes of the autonomous cars – equipped with camera and sensors – have been undergoing tests on private and public streets for several years now. If you’ve seen them roving on the highways of California, know that Google and some automakers, such as Nissan, Tesla Motors, and Honda, are the ones responsible for their safety.
With millions on miles on board, Google’s cars don’t leave the lab without someone behind the wheel, an operator ready to take over in case of mishaps. Even though some vehicles have gotten into collisions, the companies said a person in another had caused the accident.
Google hopes to conclude as soon as possible that the technology is safe, at which point it advocates for getting the self-driving cars into the public domain. However, a few hurdles are still in the way. The lead on regulating self-driving cars is the states’ responsibility, but policymakers in Washington are also indirectly involved in the decision-making.
The federal government is now revisiting the language that specifies a licensed driver should be behind the wheel, should the states decide the public can get access to the self-driving cars. Google says this is unnecessary, arguing that once the technology is safe, the steering wheel and pedals should be removed so people don’t interfere.
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