Transportation department to carmakers: Make your own self-driving rules

September 13, 2017

The United States Department of Transportation has decided to use a set of voluntary guidelines—not enforceable rules—as the automotive industry evolves toward self-driving cars.

Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao also said that, “projects that have greater innovation will get a greater share of federal dollars.” In other words, the Trump administration is officially using its infrastructure plan to promote technologies that expedite the dawn of mass-produce self-driving vehicles.

MORE: The levels of self-driving cars

The controversial guidelines fall in line with the auto industry's lobbying efforts. General Motors called the new guidelines “clear, streamlined, and flexible guidance,” while Kay Stepper, vice president for automated driving systems at German supplier Bosch, added that the guidelines provide “stability and reassurance that we can deploy autonomous vehicles throughout the country.”

The new governmental policy comes on the same day that the National Transportation Safety Board recommended significantly more governmental oversight over semi-autonomous systems. The NTSB’s investigation into a fatal crash of a Tesla Model S that was using its Autopilot mode concluded with a list of policy recommendations, including the style and frequency of driver monitoring each car should perform.

Former acting administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), David Friedman, strongly disagreed with the Transportation Department’s new direction, saying that it was the government’s responsibility to “ensure automated systems work as they’re supposed to without placing consumers at risk.”

Secretary Chao noted that the NHTSA could still recall any vehicle found to be unsafe.

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