Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao Says Trump Administration Will Be 'Catalyst' for Self-Driving Tech

In a bid to reassess self-driving car guidances following the Obama administration, the Trump administration's newly appointed Transportation Secretary, Elaine Chao, said this weekend that she is reviewing the guidances while urging companies "to explain the benefits of automated vehicles to a skeptical public." Chao said that there's a lot at stake in improving and regulating the technology, and ensuring that passengers are safe when they use the new self-driving systems (via Reuters).

The guidances referenced by the Obama administration asked carmakers to voluntarily detail each of their self-driving systems by using a 15-point "safety assessment" precaution. Most regulations were also urged to be looked at by the federal government and taken out of the hands of the states. As a new administration approached last November, automakers concerned about the guidelines -- citing a need to give up "significant data" and likely facing months-long delays in testing -- asked the incoming Trump staff to re-evaluate.

Google tests out its "Waymo" self-driving technology

Earlier in February, automakers faced Congress to request a few legislative changes that they hoped would "speed self-driving cars to U.S. roads." According to Chao, the Trump administration will do everything it can to be "a catalyst" for the industry and not become a blockade to progress in self-driving vehicles. Chao's thesis hit on asking Silicon Valley companies to first and foremost figure out a way to "educate a skeptical public" about why self-driving cars would be a good thing in the first place.
"This administration is evaluating this guidance and will consult with you and other stakeholders as we update it and amend it, to ensure that it strikes the right balance.

She said the Trump administration wanted to ensure it "is a catalyst for safe, efficient technologies, not an impediment. In particular, I want to challenge Silicon Valley, Detroit, and all other auto industry hubs to step up and help educate a skeptical public about the benefits of automated technology."
Vehicle automation has become a hot topic over the past few years, and even Apple hasn't escaped the rumors of working on a self-driving vehicle. The hopes for an "Apple Car" have largely been dashed after vans roaming around the country were debunked as data-collecting vehicles for Apple Maps, and any of the company's efforts to build a full Apple Car have since shifted towards focusing on an autonomous driving system. In a letter to federal regulators last year, the company further confirmed its interest in "machine learning and automation" as it relates to motor vehicles, hinting that Apple wouldn't be averse to creating self-driving software that's used in another manufacturer's vehicle.

The letter was sent to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and some of it aligns with other automakers' concerns over the established self-driving guidances. In its letter, Apple referenced an issue with delayed testing for companies entering the automobile industry with automation technology, as well as an agreement that companies should share sufficient data in relation to crashes and near-misses, but it should never come at the expense of breaching privacy.

Both of these suggestions, and a collection of others, are points that Chao aims to evaluate as the administration updates and amends the guidance for self-driving vehicles, "to ensure that it strikes the right balance." The Transportation Secretary also mentioned a concern over potential employment loss in the context of vehicle automation growing, as well as promising to help the Federal Aviation Administration develop drone regulation standards "to ensure that drones can be safely integrated into our country’s airspace."

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35 months ago

I love everything trump is doing for this country. Voting for him was the best think I've done in a while!


You should probably think harder then.
Rating: 15 Votes
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35 months ago
I love everything trump is doing for this country. Voting for him was the best think I've done in a while!
Rating: 12 Votes
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35 months ago
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Rating: 8 Votes
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35 months ago
Trump administration? Nope. They'll be too busy working out how big their wall is going to be.

Elon Musk still having the orange goon's ear? Yep. And Musk (along with Google) has been the catalyst for self driving for a while now.
Rating: 7 Votes
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35 months ago
The Trump Adminstration will be the "catalyst" for something alright—doubt it will be self-driving cars.
Rating: 5 Votes
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35 months ago
Yes - which will take over taxis and other transportation jobs!!! ;)
Rating: 5 Votes
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35 months ago
So, tech that has been evolving for many years now, will suddenly be Trump's doing. Gotta love that logic. And if anyone thinks he won't take credit for the technology, you are delusional.

As long as I have the choice. I love driving! And how am I supposed to enjoy my future Mustang GT when it's just driving itself?

Now for those long, 12-hour interstate hauls that I've done, I give self driving cars an affirmative YES PLEASE. :D


This I how I feel. I don't really care about driving flashy sports cars, but my wife and I often explore new neighborhoods and tour the open houses. Or, I have to deliver equipment to some specific door of some skanky warehouse in an overgrown parking lot. Not things easily done with a solely computer-based car.

But've I've had discussions with plenty of "urban fabric" die-hards who want all human control of vehicles completely removed. When I ask about all the situations in which a computer may not be able to do as desired, the response is "then you'll just have to change". One even said that as the tech was evolving, we would get to the point where streets would have to be shut down completely to allow human-driven vehicles to pass, because of how dangerous they are. Yeah...people are that crazy.
Rating: 5 Votes
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35 months ago

Uhhh, no. Please no.

I think a fully self driving future is one of those things that we may never get to. The optimists would tell you otherwise. But like fully self-aware artificial intelligence (like in the movie "Her"), we may or may never get over "the hump." There's just too many if's and exceptions (especially on the road).

Likewise, on that note, advanced AI and self driving cars go hand in hand. We'll see.

The possibility that I'm afraid of is the whole choice thing, where you have no option but to use self driving.
Rating: 4 Votes
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35 months ago

I love everything trump is doing for this country. Voting for him was the best think I've done in a while!


Regardless of your political persuasion if voting for a particular candidate (any of them) is the best thing you've done in a while that's a little sad.

edit: this is likely something that the federal government should be getting involved in given the mish mash of state regulations that are popping up right now. Companies are jumping state to state right now.
Rating: 4 Votes
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35 months ago

I can envision self driving taxis, but it's going to be a weird sell to customers to actually buy a self driving car. What are the selling points? Our car is the safest? Our car has the most comfortable back seat? Best sound system?

All of a sudden, horsepower and performance and handling and the driving experience which has been the selling point for cars since day one will become irrelevant. It will all be about comfort.


If a self driving car can be built that is safe, reliable, and not extraordinarily expensive, it would have a huge number of advantages compared to an ordinary car.

There would first be a question how capable a driver must accompany the car. Can I use the car when I'm drunk, asleep, half blind, a fourteen year old, a six year old sent to a destination with mom's or dad's instructions to the car? Can the car park itself? And I mean drop me off where I want to go, and then look for a parking space on its own? Can it take the kids to school and pick them up?

The worst case would be a car where I have to be at the steering wheel and able to take over control at a moment's notice. Because that's not going to work, unless the car is designed and capable of stopping safely whatever happens, and I can take control from a stopped car.
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If Chao waters down the 15 point safety assessment that will be an extreme disappointment to me. I'm not sure of the kind of mental calculus one would employ to decide to make it easier for self driving cars to become a reality on our roads.

British government suggests a very simple rule: You must find an insurance company that is willing to sell you third party liability insurance that will guarantee that any damage to third parties will be paid. The insurance company will decide what's "safe enough", but they have to put their money where their mouth is.
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I love everything trump is doing for this country. Voting for him was the best think I've done in a while!

Best joke in a long time. You're genuinely funny :-)
Rating: 4 Votes
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