Elaine Chao, the US Transportation Secretary, will be announcing revised guidelines for autonomous of self-driving cars in the coming months. It was only last year that Obama's US Transportation Secretary had announced the initial guidelines, and he had mentioned that the department would routinely update these guidelines as the technology improves in self-driving cars. Since this is essentially a brand new industry for the US, numerous revisions are definitely needed.
Secretary Chao spoke in Detroit last week, and stated that the "pressure is mounting for the federal government to do something" in regards to self-driving cars. And this is true, since the majority of auto makers and tech companies are already testing out self-driving cars on public roads, or have plans to. Chao did also mention that the federal government needs to be careful before it sets concrete rules about self-driving cars. Chao continued that she does not want to set rules or guidelines that would impede technology advances in the future. There are already many States that are allowing public testing of autonomous cars, in fact, Uber is already picking up passengers in autonomous cars in Pittsburgh.
Now the US Transportation Secretary isn't the only one that thinks the industry needs rules set in place for autonomous driving. Ken Washington who is the CTO at Ford Motor Company, stated that "we need a more concrete regulatory framework." Now that may seem a bit odd, since President Trump has been working to get rid of many regulations, then you have an executive from Ford stating that it needs more regulations. But what Washington wants is a set of rules that an auto maker – like Ford – could use to certify that their self-driving car is actually safe. Something similar to what already exists for "normal" cars today.
This is an industry that needs competition to stay innovative. Secretary Chao noted that the rules her department is working on and will announce soon, would pave the way for innovation, as well as allow new entrants into the industry. This is important as it will help make these vehicles even safer. Secretary Chao has already met with auto makers, although it was not mentioned which companies specifically, and all of the them have urged Chao to make some changes to the initial regulations that the Obama Administration announced – which was in the very early stages of autonomous vehicles. Congress has also been working on a revised package of rules for autonomous cars, which will likely work alongside the Transportation Departments changes.
Self-driving cars is something that has been said to be "the future" for decades now. However, it now appears that the industry is closer than ever to self-driving cars and that it is actually going to happen very soon. Many tech companies are interested in self-driving cars because it means that they will be able to save lives. Although when it comes to Uber and Lyft, they are looking to use self-driving cars to save some cash. Seeing as self-driving cars would save money on drivers, but it would mean more maintenance is required. So while a number of people are worried about this advancement killing off jobs, it actually wouldn't. It would actually move them around to other industries. This is similar to when the ATM debuted a few decades ago. Many were worried about Bank tellers losing their jobs, but they haven't, and banks had to hire more engineers to fix the ATM's when they break down.
These rules are going to be crucial to the next step in self-driving cars. They could really make or break the industry for a number of players. But Ford's CTO is correct. Auto makers do need a way to certify its autonomous vehicles, as these vehicles do need to be safe, and companies need to prove to passengers that these cars are safe. Now States can still adjust these rules, as they see fit. For instance, allowing self-driving cars on public roads is already up to the States, and Nevada, California, Pennsylvania, Arizona and Michigan are among the few allowing it.