U.S. Government’s Self-Driving Car Council Falling Apart Under Trump Administration, Report Says

The group hasn’t met since the new president took office.

byStephen Edelstein|
U.S. Government’s Self-Driving Car Council Falling Apart Under Trump Administration, Report Says


As automakers and tech companies rush to introduce self-driving cars, the Trump Administration's attempts to regulate them seem to have stalled. A federal advisory board on autonomous-driving technology is completely inactive, according to a new Recode report. 

The Federal Committee on Automation is led by General Motors CEO Mary Barra and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, and held its first meeting January 16, in the waning days of the Obama Administration. But it hasn't met at all since then, according to the report.

A Waymo spokesperson told Recode they believe the committee is not active under Trump. A Lyft spokesperson said company president John Zimmer resigned his seat a "while back." A Department of Transportation spokesperson referred to comments from July, in which the agency said it was "still reviewing its options" on how to utilize the committee.

Keeping a committee comprised primarily of business leaders together could prove more complicated in the wake of Trump's controversial comments about violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. That led to an exodus of business leaders from two White House advisory boards, both of which were subsequently disbanded. GM CEO Barra sat on of those boards, the Strategic and Policy Forum.

The administration's inaction could also impact Congress' attempt to draft self-driving car regulations. The House is considering a package of laws that would make it easier for companies to deploy more self-driving cars, but so far it has had to debate the legislation without input from the head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. That's because Trump hasn't nominated anyone to fill the position.

The lack of input from the NHTSA has led to criticism from Democrats, and it could make it difficult to implement any rules should the bill pass. The NHTSA will likely play a critical role in enforcing any rules, and lack of leadership could limit its effectiveness. Former NHTSA boss David Strickland told Recode that career employees of the agency could do the job without a full-time leader.

Given the eagerness of automakers and tech companies to deploy self-driving cars, the government will need to get moving on regulations. Just rewriting current rules to encompass autonomous vehicles could take years, and creating new ones to cover all of the possible issues that might crop up with autonomous-driving technology will be a complex process.