Driverless Vehicle Makers Get to Steer Own Safety Oversight

The U.S. Transportation Department unveiled a new policy that permits companies developing autonomous vehicles to self-police the technology’s safety, a move that drew plaudits from automakers but criticism from safety advocates.

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said the policy incorporates concerns raised by companies and others about initial guidance released by the Obama administration and will help the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration be flexible as self-driving vehicles develop.

Chao said the voluntary guidelines are appropriate to support the technology that she said has the potential to reduce the more than 30,000 traffic fatalities in the U.S. each year and boost the economy by saving fuel and cutting time spent in traffic.

“Safety is a primary concern of the department’s automated vehicle policy,” Chao said in remarks at an autonomous vehicle testing site in Michigan. “NHTSA will continue to exercise its defect, recall and enforcement authority, where appropriate, but the benefits of automated vehicle systems extend beyond safety.”

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