The drive toward autonomous cars picked up speed yesterday when the Obama Administration announced a $4 billion proposal to create policies for self-driving cars.
Flanked by executives from General Motors, Ford, Tesla and Google, which is already testing driverless cars in California, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx announced the proposal at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
“We are bullish on automated vehicles,” Foxx said.
The auto industry is investing billions in self-driving cars but the lack of federal guidelines has long been a concern because the industry wants to avoid a patchwork of conflicting state regulations — in December, the California Dept. of Motor Vehicles issued recommendations for regulating driverless cars.
The lack of a clarity on a variety of issues, especially the question of who is liable when a self-driving car causes an accident or fatality, has slowed development of autonomous cars in the U.S. and abroad.
In October, Volvo CEO Hakan Samuelsson said that the company would accept full responsibility for accidents caused by its self-driving cars. Volvo has pledged it will have 100 self-driving cars on Swedish roads by the end of 2017.
Ford, General Motors, Mercedes-Benz, Volvo and other manufacturers are deep in development of self-driving cars, and advances in technology are shortening the timetable for their adoption. Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk predicted last week that within two years a Tesla owner in New York will be able to remotely summon a vehicle in Los Angeles to drive itself across the country. But fully self-driving cars are still years away.
Widespread adoption of autonomous cars is expected to reduce accidents by 90 percent and save 30,000 lives annually in the U.S.