Does the Government Get to Decide?

In a recent Detroit news article, Google’s Director of the self-driving car project recently stated that Google doesn’t need approval from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to proceed with testing.  “They are not a permission-granting organization,” Urmson said. “NHTSA could certainly reactively ban it, but we don’t think that they need to grant permission.”

I happen to think this approach is brilliant.  Google is proactively changing people’s mindsets about government regulation in order to get their way.  They are stating their opinion as fact (in advance of the government taking much of a stance) and allowing that to seep into people’s brains.

I also don’t agree with this.  While the government should not slow the private sector’s innovation, it’s important that they protect the public.  Most of the federal agencies are in place to protect the public with regulations, policies, and funded initiatives.  Examples include the Food and Drug Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Transit Administration, and the list goes on.

Currently, the California Department of Motor Vehicles is working on autonomous vehicles regulation.  They’re seeking input from the automotive industry, Google, and others; however, the process has sparked a lot of debate.  I think they’re doing the right thing and I’m looking forward to seeing what they come up with!

About Lauren Isaac

I am the Manager of Transportation Sustainability at Parsons Brinckerhoff. Recently, I won the William Barclay Parsons fellowship for my research proposal to study how the United States government should respond to driverless cars. As I'm working on my research, I thought this blog would help to disseminate my findings and provide a forum for feedback.
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