Speed Reads

Leave the Driving to Us

Driverless cars are coming, and the Obama administration is now riding shotgun

On Monday, the Obama administration got on board the push for self-driving cars but also issued some guidelines to help steer commercial development. "We envision in the future, you can take your hands off the wheel, and your commute becomes restful or productive instead of frustrating and exhausting," said Jeffrey Zients, director of the National Economic Council, who unveiled the new guidelines with Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. Driverless cars "will save time, money, and lives," Zients added, while Foxx emphasized that the federal government would like uniform safety rules in the booming young industry.

States will continue to deal with licensing drivers and cars, Foxx said, but the federal government will claim oversight over the software and other technology in semiautonomous cars. "What we are trying to do is avoid a patchwork of state laws," he explained. The new guidelines include a 15-point set of safety standards, but don't rise to the level of regulation. "We left some areas intentionally vague," said National Highway Traffic Safety Administration spokesman Bryan Thomas, "because we wanted to outline the areas that need to be addressed and leave the rest to innovators."

Large automakers like Ford and BMW plus startups and tech companies like Tesla, Google, Apple, and Uber are all investing in driverless car technology, though Tesla's Autopilot feature has come under scrutiny after a Tesla owner died in a collision with a semi truck. The new guidelines were generally met favorably by the companies pushing automated driving and the consumer advocates who are concerned about a Wild West. You can read more at The New York Times.