Self-driving cars will get closer to appearing on American roads under a U.S. Transportation Department plan to speed their rollout.
Regulators will allow automakers that can demonstrate they have a safe autonomous vehicle to apply for exemptions to certain rules as part of the new approach, which is designed to ensure government doesn’t stand in the way of technological progress.
“We are entering a new world and we know it,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said Thursday at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. “We have to recognize it and adjust to it.”
Actions in the coming months “will provide the foundation and the path forward for manufacturers, state officials and consumers,” Foxx said.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration plans to issue guidelines on safe deployment of fully autonomous vehicles in the next six months. That will include how self-driving cars should be tested and the benchmarks they’ll need to reach to be permitted on the road.
$4 Billion Funding
Foxx also announced a $4 billion grant program over 10 years to fund pilot projects to test connected vehicle systems.
“No one knows all the answers to all these questions,” said Mark Reuss, executive vice president of product development at General Motors Co. “To have partners across the industry, to have a regulator, is going to be the fastest, safest way to figure these things out.”
The industry’s frenzy to build more autonomous cars was on display at the auto show this week. Daimler AG unveiled a new flagship Mercedes-Benz E-Class that can steer itself in auto- pilot mode. The car has emergency-braking assist, evasive steering, and can park itself, and it’s the first production model with vehicle-to-infrastructure communications ability.
GM invested $500 million in Lyft Inc. to work with the ride-sharing company to develop a fleet of self-driving cars., and Ford Motor Co. announced plans to test autonomous vehicles for better reaction to snowy conditions, one of the major technical hurdles.