Answering the call of automakers who don’t want to tangle with a patchwork of state regulations, the U.S. Department of Transportation has issued its first policy for putting self-driving cars on America’s roadways.
The new Federal Automated Vehicle Policy includes a 15-point safety guideline for manufacturers and urges the states to let the federal government regulate the technology and performance of automated cars.
However, the department said it would work with the states in the areas where state and local government needs to be engaged: driver education, licensing and adapting regulations to allow the use of the cars on the road.
Companies like Google have already begun testing driverless cars in cities where officials, excited about the vehicles’ potential to improve traffic safety and increase mobility, have let the cars operate with little regulation.
Few states had passed laws on the computer-run vehicles in the absence of federal guidance. But this year, at least 14 considered implementing regulations.
Proponents of driverless cars say they will reduce crashes caused by drunken driving and other human error, as well as help people with disabilities, who may not otherwise be able to drive.
And U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx appeared to agree, saying “automated vehicles have the potential to save thousands of lives, driving the single biggest leap in road safety that our country has ever taken.”