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President Obama outlines regulations for self-driving cars

by Jacob Kleinman | September 20, 2016September 20, 2016 1:30 pm EST

Self-driving cars are quickly gaining momentum, and now the U.S. government is stepping in to help regulate the new technology. In an Op-Ed piece published this week, President Barack Obama lays out how his administration hopes to keep consumers safe without stifling innovation.

Obama makes it clear that he sees automated driving as a positive development, writing that the technology has the “potential to transform the way we live.” Specifically, he notes that the vast majority of car-related deaths are caused by human error (94 percent of 35,200 fatalities in 2015). Self-driving vehicles could also help senior citizens and people with disabilities who can’t drive on their own.

“Safer, more accessible driving,” Obama writes. “Less congested, less polluted roads. That’s what harnessing technology for good can look like.”

However, that doesn’t mean we should let companies test out whatever technology they want on the open road. “But we have to get it right,” he adds. “Americans deserve to know they’ll be safe today even as we develop and deploy the technologies of tomorrow.”

To that end, the Obama administration is establishing a 15-point safety checklist that car manufacturers will have to sign. The government is also set to guide individual states in setting up regulations so that driving across state lines doesn’t suddenly become a safety issue due to varying laws. Most importantly, the new regulations are designed to be flexible and evolve over time as the technology continues to chance and improve.

This is just another small step in what’s expected to be a decade-long process as self-driving cars transition from technological curiosity to mainstream transportation. With the U.S. government’s support, it’s possible we could see self-driving cars hit the roads even sooner than expected.

Jacob Kleinman

Jacob Kleinman has been working as a journalist online and in print since he arrived at Wesleyan University in 2007. After graduating, he took a...