U.S. eases safety guide­lines for self-driv­ing ve­hi­cle tests

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - BUSINESS - BY DEE-ANN DURBIN

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion is up­dat­ing safety guide­lines for self-driv­ing cars in an at­tempt to clear bar­ri­ers for au­tomak­ers and tech com­pa­nies who want to get test ve­hi­cles on the road.

U.S. Trans­porta­tion Sec­re­tary Elaine Chao an­nounced the new vol­un­tary guide­lines Tues­day dur­ing a visit to an au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cle test­ing fa­cil­ity at the Univer­sity of Michi­gan.

The new guide­lines up­date poli­cies is­sued last fall by the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, which were also largely vol­un­tary. Un­der Obama, au­tomak­ers were asked to fol­low a 15-point safety as­sess­ment be­fore put­ting test ve­hi­cles on the road.

The new guide­lines re­duce that to a 12-point vol­un­tary as­sess­ment, and no longer re­quire au­tomak­ers to con­sider eth­i­cal or pri­vacy is­sues.

Chao em­pha­sized that the guide­lines aren’t meant to force au­tomak­ers to use cer­tain technology or meet strin­gent re­quire­ments; in­stead, they’re de­signed to clar­ify what au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cle de­vel­op­ers should be con­sid­er­ing be­fore they put test cars on the road.

“This is a guid­ance doc­u­ment,” Chao said. “We want to make sure those who are in­volved un­der­stand how im­por­tant safety is. We also want to en­sure that the in­no­va­tion and the cre­ativ­ity of our coun­try re­main.”

Crit­ics say the vol­un­tary na­ture of the guide­lines gives the govern­ment no author­ity to pre­vent dan­ger­ous ex­per­i­men­tal ve­hi­cles.

“This isn’t a vi­sion for safety,” said John M. Simp­son, head of pri­vacy for a non­profit pro­gres­sive group called Con­sumer Watch­dog. “It’s a roadmap that al­lows man­u­fac­tur­ers to do what­ever they want, wher­ever and when­ever they want, turn­ing our roads into pri­vate lab­o­ra­to­ries for ro­bot cars with no re­gard for our safety.”

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