Federal Government Involvement in Driverless Cars

It has been an exciting few months for driverless cars…and not just because of technological advancements!  The Federal Government has been giving driverless cars a lot of attention:

  • The United States Department of Transportation (US DOT) recently issued a “Smart Cities Challenge,” which would award a winning mid-sized city up to $50 million dollars for a solid plan to incorporate technology into its cities (driverless cars being a focus area) (source)
  • US DOT Secretary Foxx has promised a regulatory framework for driverless cars in the next six months. He stated “What we’re trying to do is to find out where there are touch points in our regulatory system that would prevent innovation happening in the automobile space. And trying to get ahead of that and smooth that out before we have a situation where the technology is ready to go and we’ve not figured out how to help it get there.” (source)
  • The federal government’s new request in President Obama’s proposed budget is for $4 billion in the next fiscal year, to be spent over 10 years, to finance research projects and infrastructure improvements tied to driverless cars. (source)

California was required to put out their regulations and they missed that deadline by over a year. Will the federal government have the same fate? Also, it’s unclear that any of the funding that Secretary Foxx has requested has actually been confirmed. I’m cautiously optimistic that these latest actions by the federal government are helping governments at all levels prioritize the importance (and imminence) of driverless cars. I’m hopeful that the funding will be realized and that the federal government recognizes the importance of consistent rules across states and does take swift action in advance of the technology being publicly available and wildly popular!

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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