Department of Transportation releases new plans on driverless car regulation

Monday, September 19, 2016 - 9:06pm

The White House unveiled a new federal policy on the regulation of driverless cars on U.S. roads in a telephone press conference Monday morning.

Anthony Foxx, secretary of the Department of Transportation, stressed that the federal government will create policies for new technologies like those for driverless cars as they develop, rather than wait until these technologies have already been mass produced — an approach that will encourage innovation without sacrificing safety, he said.

“As technology races forward, the government could sit back and play catch-up down the road,” he said. “Or we could keep pace with these developments, working to protect public safety while allowing innovation to flourish.”

Automated vehicle innovation could help spur the national economy, sending Americans time and money, Jeffrey Zients, director of the National Economic Council, said on the call. 

“Self-driving cars have remarkable potential to make a significant indent in the $160 billion in time and gas that Americans lose stuck in traffic every year,” he said. “And that’s why we’re putting out the rules of the road for self-driving cars.”

The DOT’s plan is slated to have four sections that will focus on guiding manufacturers through a 15-point safety assessment, confirming individual states’ rights to vehicle licensing and registration, expanding current regulation to expedite the development and deployment of automated vehicles and improving upon traditional policy enforcement.

Foxx emphasized the government’s current authority to exercise safety regulation over motor vehicles and its commitment to do the same for automated vehicles.

“We will continue to retain an aggressive oversight approach to vehicle safety,” he said. “And we will not hesitate to use our recall authority if we have identified a defect that represents an unreasonable risk to safety.”

Zients said driverless cars may help prevent 94 percent of car crashes caused by human error, another reason the federal government is pre-emptively creating regulatory policies.

Overall, Foxx said he is confident in the government’s plan to regulate the safety of automated vehicles while also allowing for new technologies to grow.

“We believe that we have struck the right balance between safety and innovation and how those two things can work with each other,” he said.

The Department of Transportation will be taking the public’s opinions and input on the plan for 60 days from Monday.