Trump Administration Considering Changes to Self-Driving Car Rules

The federal government will unveil revised self-driving car guidelines within the next few months.

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U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao doesn't always seem to really understand self-driving cars, but she's about to lead an effort to create new regulations for them.

Chao said Monday that the Trump administration will release revised self-driving car guidelines within the next few months. At a press conference in Detroit, she said the "pressure is mounting" on the government to do something about autonomous cars and the many legal questions they're generating, according to Reuters.

"We don't want rules that impede future technological advances," Chao said. 

While self-driving cars won't appear in large numbers for at least a few years, automakers are clamoring for regulations that explicitly legalize them, and address issues such as liability. 

The Obama administration had also hoped to craft rules that would encourage development of the technology, due to the perceived safety benefits. Chao did not give any specifics on the new guidelines, or explain how they would differ from the guidelines laid down by the Obama administration.

Automakers have reportedly met with Chao multiple times over the past few months, and urged her to make changes to the Obama-era guidelines. Specifically, automakers have taken issue with a policy calling on them to voluntarily submit data as part of a 15-point "safety assessment," according to Reuters. Automakers believe this requires them to turn over too much data (which could in turn show their hand to their competitors), and that it could delay testing.

As with any other form of regulation, expect automakers and tech companies to continue lobbying for rules that benefit them. Google helped push California into drafting its first self-driving car regulations several years ago, and now companies like Apple and Tesla are lobbying for changes to a proposed new set of rules in the Golden State to remove what they see as obstacles to their own projects.

Given the Trump administration's stated goals of cutting regulations and being a friend to business, it's possible the revised self-driving car guidelines will be less strict when it comes to data reporting, or appease automakers in other ways. That may make the automakers—and other companies developing autonomous cars—happy, but the real issue is whether they will be held accountable for the technology they plan to unleash on America's roads.