Oct 5, 2018

Why self-driving cars need federal regulations

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion — this is General Motors’ vision. These potential benefits of self-driving technology can only be fully realized when self-driving cars are deployed in large numbers, and when riders feel comfortable and secure.

What's needed: Federal legislation would provide a path for manufacturers to put self-driving vehicles on the roads safely, while allowing continued innovation. Current federal law prohibits deployment of self-driving vehicles without steering wheels and other conventional driver controls. And other regulations for self-driving cars vary from state to state.

Why it matters: Every year, crashes claim the lives of approximately 1.2 million people around the world — about 40,000 of them in the U.S. And 94% of traffic crashes in the U.S. are caused by human error. Because self-driving vehicles do not operate impaired, tired or distracted, they offer a compelling solution. And when self-driving vehicles are electric, they will help to accelerate the transition to sustainable energy.

What to watch: The SELF DRIVE Act, passed by the House of Representatives, and the AV START Act, pending in the Senate, would direct the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to issue new and revised safety regulations on an expedited basis. The bills would allow safe self-driving deployment during the period between enactment and NHTSA’s issuance of new regulations, but only by manufacturers that prove their self-driving cars are as safe as human drivers.

The bottom line: Transitioning to a self-driving society will take time, and will require cooperation and collaboration by the private and public sectors. Federal legislation is essential to enabling the journey.

Mary Barra is the chairman and CEO of General Motors.

Go deeper

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 1:30 p.m. ET: 1,506,936 — Total deaths: 90,057 — Total recoveries: 340,112Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 1:30 p.m. ET: 432,596 — Total deaths: 14,831 — Total recoveries: 24,235Map.
  3. Business latest: The Fed will lend up to $2.3 trillion for businesses, state and city governments — Another 6.6 million jobless claims were filed last week.
  4. Federal government latest: President Trump is preparing to launch a second coronavirus task force focused on reviving the U.S. economy.
  5. Public health latest: Dr. Anthony Fauci said social distancing could reduce the U.S. death toll to 60,000.
  6. States latest: New York's coronavirus death toll hits record high for third straight day.
  7. 🎧 Podcast: Your hydroxychloroquine questions answered.
  8. What should I do? Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  9. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.

Trump plans second coronavirus task force focused on the economy

Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump is preparing to launch a second coronavirus task force focused on reviving the U.S. economy, which has been battered by the coronavirus, two administration officials tell Axios.

Why it matters: There is growing energy within the West Wing to start easing people back to work by May 1. But some public health officials, including those on the coronavirus task force, have warned against doing so, raising concerns about reopening America too soon.

New York's coronavirus death toll hits record high for third straight day

799 people died from coronavirus in New York over the past 24 hours, a record high for the third straight day that brings the state's total death toll to 7,067.

Why it matters: Gov. Andrew Cuomo said at a press conference that social distancing is helping to "flatten the curve" of coronavirus hospitalizations and that deaths are a lagging indicator. Still, he called the death figures "shocking and painful," noting that the virus has killed more than double the number of people who died in New York on 9/11.