Date
24 May 2018
A Google self-driving car navigates the streets of Washington, D.C. The "summit" seeks to identify “unnecessary regulatory barriers” to the rollout of autonomous cars in the United States. Photo: AFP
A Google self-driving car navigates the streets of Washington, D.C. The "summit" seeks to identify “unnecessary regulatory barriers” to the rollout of autonomous cars in the United States. Photo: AFP

US ‘summit’ set to remove roadblocks to autonomous cars

The US Department of Transportation has called a conference on March 1 among auto manufacturers, technology companies, road safety advocates and policymakers to discuss measures to speed up the rollout of autonomous cars in the country, Reuters reports.

Last month, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said the Trump administration plans to unveil revised self-driving car guidelines this summer as the government sets out to rewrite regulations that pose legal barriers to robot vehicles, the news agency said.

Next month’s “summit” is to help “identify priority federal and non-federal activities that can accelerate the safe rollout” of autonomous vehicles, the department said. It will also be open to the public.

The US National Highway Traffic-Safety Administration (NHTSA) wants comments on what research to conduct before deciding whether to eliminate or rewrite regulations. It could take the agency years to finalize rule changes, and advocates are pushing Congress to act.

In October, the NHTSA said it is looking for ideas on how it can remove regulatory roadblocks to robot cars.

The agency said it wants to find any “unnecessary regulatory barriers” to self-driving cars, “particularly those that are not equipped with controls for a human driver”.

The March 1 meeting at the department’s headquarters in Washington will include “several stakeholder breakout sessions on various topics related to automation”, the NHTSA said.

Legislation to speed introduction of self-driving cars unanimously passed the US House of Representatives in September but stalled in the Senate over concerns from a small number of Democrats.

Automakers must meet nearly 75 auto safety standards, many of which were written with the assumption that a licensed driver will be in control of the vehicle.

General Motors Co., Alphabet Inc., Tesla Inc. and others have lobbied for the landmark legislation, while auto safety groups urged more safeguards.

Last September, Chao announced the first set of revisions to the guidelines unveiled by the Obama administration.

In early January, GM filed a petition with NHTSA requesting an exemption to have a small number of autonomous vehicles operate in a ride-share program without steering wheels or human drivers that could begin in 2019.

The NHTSA is reviewing the petition and has not yet certified it as complete, an interim step before deciding on the merits of the proposal.

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RC/CG

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