The Trump administration plans to roll out new, revised guidelines in the US for self-driving cars in the coming months, Reuters reports. The guidelines imposed under former US President Barack Obama, which were rolled out last September, asked automakers to voluntarily submit their self-driving car systems to 15-point “safety assessments” to determine their roadworthiness. States were urged to defer to the federal government on most regulations.
But automakers have expressed concern over the guidance, according to Reuters, as it could delay testing by months, and requires them to hand over large amounts of data. It also leaves the door open for states to make the federal guidelines mandatory rather than voluntary.
Details of the Trump administration’s future guidelines aren’t currently available. US Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said Monday that “the pressure is mounting for the federal government to do something” about self-driving vehicles, but that the US government must take care not to impose binding rules. “We don’t want rules that impede future technological advances,” she said.
“We need a more concrete regulatory framework,” Ford Chief Technology Officer Ken Washington says.
Ford Motor Company, regarded as something of a leader in the self-driving car space, has plans to put a fully-autonomous car on the road in 2021. Developing the technology, says Executive Chairman Bill Ford, will be the easy part; it’s the legislation, and how the car tackles ethical questions like “whose life gets priority when a crash is inevitable,” that will prove tricky.
“No one manufacturer is going to be able to program in one ethical equation that is different than the others,” Bill Ford said last week. “I mean, that would be chaos. And imagine the fun the trial lawyers would have with that too.”
Before automakers and lawmakers even reach that juncture, of course, there’s the more simple matter of facilitating real-world development testing while mitigating the risk to human drivers, and how to hold different parties accountable in a variety of scenarios.