Self-Driving Cars May Be Coming Sooner Than You Thought – Huffington Post

Posted: Tuesday, November 24, 2015

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Federal transportation officials are rethinking their position on self-driving cars with an eye toward getting the emerging technology into the public’s hands, according to a spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Just two years ago, the agency struck a cautious tone. Its official policy statement, published in May 2013, holds that cars should be limited to testing and not “authorized for use by members of the public for general driving purposes.”

For several years, Google and several traditional automakers have been running prototypes equipped with a suite of sensors and cameras around public streets and highways, mostly in California.

Those cars must have someone behind the wheel, ready to take over. Some have gotten into collisions, though companies say in each case a person in another car caused the accident.

Google has advocated spreading self-driving cars into the public, once the tech titan concludes the technology is safe.

While states have taken the lead on regulating self-driving cars, policy makers in Washington hold some sway over states’ decision-making. California’s Department of Motor Vehicles in particular has asked for federal guidance as it struggles with how to move the cars safely from small-scale road tests to broader adoption.

In a written statement Monday, U.S. Department of Transportation spokeswoman Suzanne Emmerling said that with rapid development of the technology, federal policy is being updated.

“Breathtaking progress has been made,” Emmerling wrote. She said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx ordered his department’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration update its 2013 policy “to reflect today’s technology and his sense of urgency to bring innovation to our roads that will make them safer.” 

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