Trump Administration Now Reviewing Obama’s Self-Driving Vehicle Guidance

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The Trump Administration is now reviewing the self-driving vehicle guidance issued last year by the Obama Administration, according to new US Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.

Along with the comments revealing the review, the Transportation Secretary also commented that companies were being “urged” to explain the value and benefits of self-driving vehicles to a “skeptical public” (fewer auto accidents and fatalities, etc.).

This news follows reports that a number of major auto manufacturers have been pushing the Trump administration and Congress to create national standards for self-driving vehicle regulations, so as to increase the speed at which the technology can be tested and commercialized.

With regard to the Obama administration’s guidance, some auto manufacturers have expressed reservations — including about the fact that “it requires them to turn over significant data” and it could lead to testing delays.

The exact comments from the new US Transportation Secretary (made to the National Governors Association) were: “This administration is evaluating this guidance and will consult with you and other stakeholders as we update it and amend it, to ensure that it strikes the right balance.”

Reuters provides more:

“She said self-driving cars could dramatically improve safety.

“In 2015, 35,092 people died in US traffic crashes, up 7% and the highest full-year increase since 1966. In the first 9 months of 2016, fatalities were up 8%.

“Chao, noting research that 94% of traffic crashes were due to human error, said: ‘There’s a lot at stake in getting this technology right.'”

The comments continued, with Chao noting that the Trump administration was working to ensure that the guidance “is a catalyst for safe, efficient technologies, not an impediment. In particular, I want to challenge Silicon Valley, Detroit, and all other auto industry hubs to step up and help educate a skeptical public about the benefits of automated technology.”

The public may be skeptical, as stated above, but I have a very hard time not seeing the technology rapidly adopted once people realize that it means cheaper on-demand taxi service and/or more time to stare at their smartphones in rapt attention.

If a company like Uber or Lyft or Tesla introduces a self-driving taxi option, one with prices notably undercutting the taxi services featuring human drivers, then the technology is likely to become normalized culturally very rapidly.

With that in mind, Chao noted in her speech that she was “very concerned” about the loss of jobs that will accompany an embrace of self-driving vehicle technologies. As a reminder, there are around 3.5 million truck drivers in the US, and a great many delivery drivers and taxi drivers as well. These people will all (or almost all) be out of a job if self-driving vehicle technologies are rolled out on a large scale.


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James Ayre

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

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