Emerging Tech

DOT hits the gas on driverless cars

Shutterstock image: traffic light.

Self-driving cars could be a reality in a matter of years, thanks to a boost from the administration.

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced that President Barack Obama's fiscal 2017 budget proposal seeks nearly $4 billion in investment over 10 years in efforts to accelerate the development and adoption of self-driving cars.

Foxx made the announcement at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit on Jan. 14. The largest automobile showcase in North America draws vehicle manufacturing executives, technology leaders and industry newcomers.

The proposal would support pilot programs to test automated cars in designated corridors and create a multistate framework for connected and autonomous vehicles.

"We are on the cusp of a new era in automotive technology with enormous potential to save lives, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and transform mobility for the American people," Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a Jan. 14 statement. "Today’s actions and those we will pursue in the coming months will provide the foundation and the path forward for manufacturers, state officials, and consumers to use new technologies and achieve their full safety potential."

To address how driverless cars might affect road safety, The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration updated its 2013 policy statement on automated vehicles this year. Among other things, the agency will work with tech companies such as Google, Apple and Uber to establish principles of safe operation for testing self-driving cars and will issue best-practice guidelines for automated vehicles within six months.

"For policymakers at all levels, the governing [principle] should be that technologies with proven, data-supported benefits that would make roads safer should be encouraged," according to the policy statement.

NHTSA is also working on a networked crash-avoidance system that would use onboard wireless devices to transmit and share critical safety information among vehicles on the road. That approach has raised some concerns about the system's cybersecurity.

In a report issued in August 2014, officials said the system could save more than 1,000 lives per year and prevent almost 600,000 crashes. They plan to deliver a notice of proposed rulemaking for the network this year.

About the Author

Bianca Spinosa is an Editorial Fellow at FCW.

Spinosa covers a variety of federal technology news for FCW including workforce development, women in tech, and the intersection of start-ups and agencies. Prior to joining FCW, she was a TV journalist for more than six years, reporting local news in Virginia, Kentucky, and North Carolina. Spinosa is currently pursuing her Master’s degree in Writing at George Mason University, where she also teaches composition. She earned her B.A. from the University of Virginia.

Click here for previous articles by Spinosa, or connect with her on Twitter: @BSpinosa.


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