With several states across the union actively encouraging automakers to design and test autonomous vehicles on their roads, the U.S. is a world-leader when it comes to building and testing autonomous vehicle technology. Indeed, speaking on a press call with us last Sunday, Tesla Motors [NASDAQ:TSLA] CEO Elon Musk told us that the U.S. — and California specifically — leads the rest of the world when it comes to forward-thinking attitudes to partially and fully-autonomous vehicles.
As Volvo president and CEO Håkan Samuelsson warned the U.S. Federal government last October at a presentation at the Swedish embassy in Washington, D.C. however, that could change, especially if the U.S. didn’t act quickly to develop a nationwide framework of legislation and support to encourage autonomous vehicle development.
It appears, that warning has been heeded.
On Tuesday during his final State of the Union address, President Barack Obama signaled his intent for a greater Federal investment in a nationwide transportation system fit for the 21st Century, embracing both cleaner and greener vehicles but also smarter and safer ones.
Today, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx followed that commitment up by announcing a massive 10-year program worth nearly $4 billion to aid in the acceleration of autonomous vehicle development through real-world pilot projects.
The announcement, made at the Detroit Auto Show, included details of the White House’s plans to build a series of designated autonomous vehicle corridors across the U.S., making it possible for autonomous vehicles to help reduce emissions, improve fuel economy, and reduce fatalities on America’s roads.
“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,” Secretary Foxx said in an official 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.”
As part of the new initiative, Secretary Foxx said the Federal government would work with industry leaders across the U.S. to ensure a common multistate framework was built for connected and autonomous vehicles, exactly what we note Håkan Samuelsson was calling for in October last year.
In order to facilitate development of autonomous vehicles further, Secretary Foxx also detailed an update to the 2013 preliminary policy from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on autonomous vehicles. The updated guidance, which pulls on some of the recent advancements in autonomous vehicle safety, industry information and changes in capabilities of autonomous vehicles, should make it easier and quicker for companies to develop autonomous vehicle technology while at the same time ensuring high safety standards are met.
“NHTSA is using all of its available tools to accelerate the deployment of technologies that can eliminate 94 percent of fatal crashes involving human error,” said NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind. “We will work with state partners toward creating a consistent national policy on these innovations, provide options now and into the future for manufacturers seeking to deploy autonomous vehicles, and keep our safety mission paramount at every stage.”
Alongside development of a framework for autonomous vehicles, Secretary Foxx said that the Department of Transport and NHTSA would also work together on the development of vehicle to vehicle and vehicle to infrastructure, two key technologies which the Department of Transport believes are essential to the deployment of advanced safety systems in vehicles and full autonomy.
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