LOS ANGELES – Cars that drive themselves have changed the rules of driving quite a bit, al the way to figuring out who would be at fault for accidents that happen. This is why the government has had trouble deciding where they stand on this matter.
Federal transportation officials are rethinking their position on self-driving cars with an eye toward getting the emerging technology into the public’s hands.
Just two years ago, the U.S. Department of Transportation struck a cautious tone. Its official policy statement, published in May 2013, says cars should be limited to testing and not “authorized for use by members of the public for general driving purposes.”
For several years, Google and several traditional automakers have been running prototypes equipped with a suite of sensors and cameras around public streets and highways, mostly in California.
Those cars must have someone behind the wheel, ready to take over. Some have gotten into collisions, though the companies say a person in another car caused the accident in each case.
Google has advocated spreading self-driving cars into the public, once the tech titan concludes the technology is safe.
While states have taken the lead on regulating self-driving cars, policymakers in Washington hold some sway over states’ decision-making. California’s Department of Motor Vehicles in particular has asked for federal guidance as it struggles with how to move the cars safely from small-scale road tests to broader adoption.
In a written statement Monday, U.S. Department of Transportation spokeswoman Suzanne Emmerling said that with rapid development of the technology, federal policy is being updated.