The Trump administration yesterday unveiled updated safety guidelines for self-driving cars in a bid to eliminate roadblocks for automakers and tech companies wanting to get test vehicles on the road.
US transportation secretary Elaine Chao announced the new voluntary guidelines during a visit to an autonomous vehicle testing facility at the University of Michigan.
"Our country is on the verge of one of the most exciting and important developments in transportation history," Chao said.
The new guidelines update the guidelines outlined by the Obama administration, under which automakers were asked to follow a 15-point safety assessment before testing vehicles on the road. The largely voluntary guidelines made it clear that the federal government and not states would determine whether the vehicles were safe.
According to commentators, regulators and lawmakers have to be careful about burdening automakers and tech companies with regulations that would hurt innovation, but they need to ensure that the vehicles are safely deployed. There are no fully self-driving vehicles for sale, but autonomous cars with backup drivers are undergoing tests in numerous states, including California, Nevada and Pennsylvania.
Autonomous vehicle developers, including automakers and tech companies like Google and Uber, claim autonomous vehicles could cut the number of accidents and make for safer transport. According to estimates, traffic fatalities numbered 40,000 last year, and the government says 94 per cent of the crashes involve human error.
In a statement released yesterday, Chao lauded the possibilities of automated driving systems which said "we can look forward to a future with fewer traffic fatalities and increased mobility for all Americans."
"In addition to safety," Chao said, "ADS technology offers important social benefits by improving access to transportation, independence and quality of life for those who cannot drive because of illness, advanced age or disability."