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New U.S. autonomous vehicle guidelines have lighter regulatory touch

Transportation Secretary Chao offers streamlined vision for development of driverless cars

AP Driverless Car
A row of Google self-driving Lexus cars at a Google event outside the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif. AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File
AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File

This afternoon, and what was certainly not the most-watched tech press conference of the day, the U.S. Department of Transportation and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao announced updates to voluntary federal autonomous vehicle guidelines. Speaking from Mcity, the 32-acre automated vehicle test site in Ann Arbor run by the University of Michigan, the message was one of forward momentum and accessibility, with calls for lighter federal oversight to encourage rapid development and commercialization.

As Secretary Chao said, “our country is on the verge of one of the most exciting innovations in transportation.”

The new guidelines, which Chao referred to as version 2.0, offer updates to the regulatory, communication, and safety rules proposed by the Obama Administration last September. Chao stuck to many of the same themes, and a philosophy that federal oversight of this emerging technology will be guided by safety, flexibility, and clarity.

Chao made a point to promote the accessibility and safety advantages that may be ushered in during the coming age of automated vehicle technology. More Americans, especially the elderly and blind, will have access to personal transportation, while less will suffer needlessly from crashes caused by human error. More than 35,000 Americans die every year due to vehicle crashes she said, and a recent rise in fatalities is an unfortunate increases “we need to do something about.”

The new guidelines offer industry-friendly changes to Obama-era regulations, which were challenged by the auto industry, who argued they would slow down innoation. Data sharing and privacy elements were changed, and the DOT pulled back on pushing for some expanded regulatory policy, notably the ability to approve or reject driverless safety systems before the could be sold to consumers. The result is a more automaker-friendly approach that speeds up the process of getting this technology on the road (the final document is half the size of the one released in September).

The DOT’s announcement comes on the heels of other recent federal action around driverless cars. The House recently unanimously passed a bill last week, the SELF DRIVE Act, while Senators released language for a proposed bill last Friday. The House bill would allow automakers to put up to 25,000 autonomous vehicles on the road (rising to 100,000 vehicles annually in three years) while requiring them to provide safety assessments to regulators. Proposed rules would also exempt automakers from having to meet some existing safety standards if they can prove a new design is safe (i.e., can a car without a steering wheel function safely and effectively).

Reflecting the fast pace of development in this sector, Chao said these new guidelines were part of a “living document,” and plans to update for 2018 are already in the works.

Held at MCity


NITSA will continue to encourage tech

Safety is principle one

Regularity and innovation process work at different speeds.

Flexibility is principe two

Further clarified federal leadership in this

Clarity is principle three.


Blind rep:

Great responsibility to include everyone in this

As president of national federation of the blind, have been invited to sit at the table of national automakers.

The role people with disabilities play in the automation of vehicles, and the designs of future transportation system gives me confidence our nation will lead the way in maximizing the benefits to society these vehicles can deliver.

Have the


Secreatary chao

It’s time like this when we realize that helping each other is a basic american value that we all share.

Our country is on the verge of one of the most exciting innovations in transportation ssytem ADS, comonly refered to as automated or self-driving vehicles.

It’s a future where the time spent commuting is dramatically reduced.

Where millions more, including the elderly and those with disabilities, gain access to the open road.

It’s a future where highway fatalties and injuries are reduced.

Mor than 35K perish every year in vehicle crashes. After a long downward trend in 2015 and 2016, we’ve seen an increase in vehicle crashes, and this isn’t a good trend and we need to do something about it.

94 percent of human crashes are caused by human error

Vision for safety 2.o

Promoting improvements in safety and reliability and accessibility in driving systems

Replaces sept 2016, version 1.0, the information released by obama era DOT

It offers a path forward for the safe deploymet of automated vehicles,

Making department processes more numble, creating a flexible framwork to match private sector innovation supporting industry innovation, supporting open innovation with public and stakeholders, and identifying best practice and providing guidance to state legislators, who are moving fast on this issue.

2.0 isn’t a static document.

Motorists spend 6.9 billion hours a year in traffic

$300 billion in wasted time and fuel

Puts money in their pockets and gives them more quality time;

Automated tech gives underserved communities greater access to transportation choice. The potential for progress in terms of productivity and safety is enormous.

That’s why it’s critica to expand public knowledge of this technology to work together to address critica concenrs of safety, privacy, and cyber security.


Way Pen, director of mcity

Total investment here exceeds $100 million by 2020