Self-driving cars: Feds release long-awaited rules

The U.S. government on Tuesday released new rules for the fast-growing, high-profile world of self-driving cars, touting the technology’s possible safety benefits and potential.

“Automated vehicles have the potential to save thousands of lives, driving the single biggest leap in road safety that our country has ever taken,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, who previewed the new rules Monday night, said in a press release Tuesday.

President Obama also helped introduce the rules in an op-ed in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.”We’re determined to help the private sector get this technology right from the start,” the president wrote.

The guidelines, which the government says are flexible and will evolve along with technological advances and in response to public comment, were released as autonomous vehicles are being tested in different states and are subject to varying rules.

While the framework was expected to cede to state rules, the feds are calling for uniform regulations. They said they expect the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to handle the regulation of motor vehicles and equipment, and states to keep regulating “human drivers, vehicle registration, traffic laws, regulations and enforcement, insurance, and liability.”

In a statement, Gary Shapiro, president of the Consumer Technology Association, called the rules “a welcome approach to avoid patchwork laws that might inhibit innovation or make the latest cutting-edge technology inaccessible to consumers.”

When asked by SiliconBeat whether the federal guidelines will prompt changes to California’s requirement that self-driving vehicles have a licensed driver behind the wheel, a DMV spokeswoman referred us to the agency’s official statement: It is reviewing the federal policy, and is planning to release revised rules “in the coming weeks.”

The new federal rules also come amid safety questions about the nascent technology — including a fatality in a Tesla that was said to be in Autopilot mode.

“The quickest way to slam the brakes on innovation is for the public to lose confidence in the safety of new technologies,” President Obama wrote in the op-ed. “Both government and industry have a responsibility to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

The rules include a 15-point safety standard for makers and designers of what the government called HAVs, or highly automated vehicles.

“We must rapidly build our expertise and knowledge to keep pace with developments, expand our regulatory capability, and increase our speed of execution,” the 116-page policy released by the Department of Transportation and the NHTSA said.



Photo: A Google self-driving car travels on San Antonio Road in Mountain View, Calif, on Oct. 22, 2015. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)


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  • johnjohnjohnjohn

    The innovation could mean no more need for truckers and cab drivers.

    • Jones


      • johnjohnjohnjohn

        If you can trust google, there are only 3.5 million professional truck drivers in the US.

    • Nelrod

      Cab drives, maybe. Truckers? No way. Talk to me in a couple decades and let’s see how this pipe dream plays out. We were supposed to have flying cars by now…

  • Well well..whenever I look around I see everything going auto. Just a random search on the internet gives so many auto this..that. I can’t just top looking at some, such as this one..

    • johnjohnjohnjohn

      I’ve done “robot” driver technology for vechicles a while back. Now sensors, software and testing information are at the point that regulations are the only thing that can stop self-driving vehicles.

  • Think about the existential crisis a self-driving car poses. A car that drives you to your work, then begins its daily routine of ride-sharing other people to wherever they wanna go. You might as well stay home, and have your car bring in the dough.