New Group Wants Uniform Regulations For Self Driving Cars

A consortium of automakers, ride sharing services, and Google will work together to convince federal regulators to create national standards for self driving cars. The group is comprised of Ford, Volvo, Uber, Lyft, and Google. It is called The Self Driving Coalition for Safer Streets. Its stated mission is “to work with lawmakers, regulators, and the public to realize the safety and societal benefits of self-driving vehicles.”

Lyft joins group promoting self driving cars

Missing from the consortium is the one company that is leading the way toward autonomous driving — Tesla Motors. It is interesting that Uber and Lyft are both members of the group, as they compete directly against each other in the marketplace. General Motors has recently made a half billion dollar investment in the company. That suggests that GM has an interest in the consortium’s work, even though it is not a named partner.

David Strickland, a former senior official at the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, will be the coalition’s counsel and spokesman. NHTSA is the federal agency tasked with writing regulations for self driving cars. “The best path for this innovation is to have one clear set of federal standards and the coalition will work with policymakers to find the right solutions that will facilitate the deployment of self-driving vehicles,” Strickland said in the statement. In other words, what the members of the group don’t want to happen is for a patchwork of confusing and contradictory state regulations to emerge.

California has proposed barring self driving cars that do not have steering wheels, pedals and a licensed driver ready to take over in an emergency. Google is opposed to that proposal. Under current federal regulations, fully autonomous vehicles without human controls are not legal. In February, NHTSA said the artificial intelligence system piloting a self driving Google car could be considered the driver under federal law, a major step toward winning approval for autonomous vehicles.

NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind has said policymakers should avoid a “patchwork” of state regulations on self-driving cars but has not taken a position on California’s proposal. Ford said in a statement the group will “work together to advocate for policy solutions that will support the deployment of fully autonomous vehicles.” NHTSA hopes to release its guidance to states, policymakers and companies on self-driving vehicles in July.

If you were to make a guess that the group wants the federal government to override state regulations, you would probably be on the right track. California has been the tail wagging the dog regarding auto emissions for decades. Under the US constitution, federal law takes precedence over state laws, but the federal courts have ruled California may impose tougher emissions standards than those required by federal law.

It seems likely that members of the consortium will be working to persuade federal officials that autonomous cars with no steering wheels or pedals will be allowed on public roads at some point in the future, whether California likes that idea or not. Things in the Byzantine world we call the federal government are seldom what they seem on the surface. The five companies, which all are working on self driving cars, say one of the group’s first tasks is to “work with civic organizations, municipalities and businesses to bring the vision of self driving vehicles to America’s roads and highways.”

Source: Automotive News

Steve Hanley

Closely following the transition from internal combustion to electricity. Whether it's cars, trucks, ships, or airplanes, sustainability is the key. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.