Obama administration unveils $4 billion proposal to fund self-driving cars

Google clashed with California transportation officials last month over draft rules that would require a licensed driver be in an autonomous car in case the technology malfunctions.

Now with some help from the federal government, the Mountain View tech giant could get its way.

On Thursday, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it is working with stakeholders on national guidelines to make sure that the deployment and operation of self-driving cars are safe. But the agency also noted in this year’s goals that it  “will consider seeking new authorities when they are necessary to ensure that fully autonomous vehicles, including those designed without a human driver in mind, are deployable in large numbers when they are demonstrated to provide an equivalent or higher level of safety than is now available.”

The Obama administration ‘s budget proposal for fiscal year 2017 will also include $4 billion to fund pilot programs to make self-driving vehicles more safe and a national framework for autonomous vehicles over 10 years, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

“We are on the cusp of a new era in automotive technology with enormous potential to save lives, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and transform mobility for the American people,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx in a statement.

California transportation officials drafting rules for the use of autonomous cars have raised concerns about how safe self-driving cars are and some consumer watchdog groups believe the government should take the more cautious path.

“This is great news,” said California State Transportation Agency Secretary Brian Kelly in a statement. “We welcome this bold step by the Obama Administration. California looks forward to strengthening our partnership with NHTSA to encourage innovation that will make our streets and roads safer.”

Google’s fleet of self-driving cars have been involved in some fender-benders during their test drives in Mountain View and Texas, but distracted drivers were the ones to blame for rear-ending the autonomous vehicles. Test drivers have had to take over 13 times to prevent the autonomous car from hitting an object from Sept. 24, 2014 to Nov. 30, 2015, Google’s data showed.

Photo Credit: U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt and Chris Urmson, director of Google’s self-driving car project, at the Google campus in Mountain View in February 2015. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)


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  • alrui

    Oh goody more wasted tax $ thanks to the Obummer admin. If you dont want to drive yourself take the bus!

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