Vince Jesaitis photo
Self-driving Cars Get the Green Light from Uncle Sam

Today marks a pivotal point for the future of transportation. The U.S. Department of Transportation 15-point safety guidelines being released represent a proactive approach that will drive innovation and bring self-driving cars to a road near you.

The guidelines also end the uncertainty and regulatory patchwork which has hung over autonomous vehicles and their development beyond science-fiction and into reality. While we are still fully digesting the new guidance, it appears to take some very positive steps to provide certainty for the private sector to move forward and increase the commitment of significant resources needed to usher in the life-improving benefits this transformational technology offers for safety, efficiency, and quality of life.

As companies created and tested autonomous vehicles on the road, they have been doing it under a cloud of uncertainty because a clear regulatory framework did not exist. With today’s guidance, the U.S. Department of Transportation creates a clear delineation of federal vs. state responsibilities. If adopted, companies will no longer have to operate under a problematic patchwork of 50 different state laws. If a self-driving car crosses California into Nevada, the car’s passengers can know what to expect. We welcome that and the long-term focus on modernizing existing federal tools and ensuring the guidance takes a light-regulatory approach to create a flexible, adaptable process as the technology further advances.

Safety and saving lives is a driving force behind why our companies are acting swiftly on this issue. The technology and automotive sectors will not sit idle as roughly 40,000 people die on our roads each year—the equivalent of a 747 crashing every week for a year, according to Mark Rosekind, head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration—when 94 percent of those accidents are preventable because they occur due to human error.

Self-driving cars have the potential to reduce that number by removing decisions humans have to make. Fully realized, Advanced Driver Assistance systems will prevent approximately 30 percent of all automotive accidents, and automated vehicles can prevent up to 90 percent, according to the Boston Consulting Group. By reducing accidents and using other smart technologies built into cars and our infrastructure, we can bring relief to congested roads and reduce billions of dollars in time and fuel needlessly wasted in traffic each year.

In addition, individuals who cannot drive cars because of age or a disability will now have an option to regain control of their mobility and find new independence. Far too many people do not have access to reliable transportation, and autonomous vehicles could be the key to transforming their lives by offering them new freedoms and opening new doors to opportunities. Some of these new opportunities include car sharing. Today’s cars are parked 95 percent of the time. This smart technology will allow people to share their car, making vehicle use more efficient and sustainable while creating new mobility options for more people that make our roads less crowded and congested.

We are very pleased that the Administration has worked to create a policy framework that allows innovators to lead by harnessing the potential this new technology has to offer. Self-driving cars have the potential to save and enhance our lives in unforeseen ways. As we continue, we look forward to working with the Administration and Congress to make sure we get this right.

Public Policy Tags: Internet of Things