Google’s self-driving car project becomes more high-profile every day it seems and the attention and success of the experiment even has traditional auto manufacturers working on self-driving vehicles. Google’s testing is even taking place on public roads and has been for a while, although they continue to use traditional form factors thanks to existing vehicles retrofitted with self-driving technology. At the same time, Google is working on designs for vehicles that eschew traditional auto concepts like steering wheels and pedals. Getting such a vehicle in the market for consumers is bringing Google closer to the cross-hairs of one group that could bring things to a screeching halt – federal regulators.
In a letter from the head of Google’s self-driving car project, Chris Urmson has laid out a proposal for a federal fast track method to obtain regulatory approval for self-driving cars. Urmson addressed the letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and tries to fill in some details of an idea that he originally floated at a Senate Commerce Committee meeting. The input from Google is also responsive to an invitation from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration seeking input from stakeholders on how to speed up approval of the technology.
The stumbling block at present is not so much that federal regulators are opposed to the concept of self-driving cars, but that current rules will result in a years-long effort to get them approved. Google is proposing a framework that would grant the feds the ability to approve the vehicles for use, subject to appropriate limitations, if it can be shown they otherwise meet federal safety standards. The new authority that Google proposes for the regulators would create “enormous potential safety benefits…quite promptly with appropriate safety conditions and full public input.”
Google has not issued any official comment on the proposal that was submitted to Foxx nor have they commented on their meetings with both Republican and Democratic members of the Senate. Thus far, legislators seem open to the idea and have begun some preliminary work on possible legislation on the matter, but a draft has not yet been submitted.
source: San Jose Mercury News