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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

U.S. auto safety regulators began a regulatory process on Thursday to solicit public input on how to ensure the safety of future self-driving vehicles.

Why it matters: The proposed rulemaking is a step toward the adoption of new safety standards for autonomous vehicles, but it could be years before any rules are final.

  • Safety advocates criticize the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for its hands-off approach to self-driving cars, while others have raised issues about liability and cybersecurity as well.
  • "This rulemaking will help address legitimate public concerns about safety, security and privacy without hampering innovation in the development of automated driving systems," said Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao in a statement.

What they're saying: "The industry is clearly looking for some federal guidance and Legislative framework to operate within," said Selika Josiah Talbott, a policy expert at American University.

  • "One can only hope that this means someone at DOT finally decided that the current lack of oversight of the driverless car industry was a bad idea both for safety and for the long-term successful deployment of the technology," said Jason Levine, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety.

The bottom line: The Trump administration is kicking off the process, but the deadline for public comments is Jan. 19, meaning any rules will be enacted under the next administration.

Go deeper

Jan 15, 2021 - Economy & Business

The cloud-based car is arriving

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The notion of the car as a "computer on wheels" is moving past the realm of hype and closer to reality, which will transform the driving experience and improve road safety, too.

Why it matters: The arrival of long-promised technologies like 5G connectivity and new high-performance computers means cars will improve over time, instead of depreciating the minute they leave the dealer lot.

Cuomo barraged by fellow Dems after second harassment accusation

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo faced a barrage of criticism from fellow Democrats after The New York Times reported that the second former aide in four days had accused him of sexual harassment.

Why it matters: Cuomo had faced a revolt from legislators for his handling of nursing-home deaths from COVID. Now, the scandal is acutely personal, with obviously grave political risk.

2 hours ago - Health

Fauci: Children "very likely" to get COVID vaccine at start of 2022

NIAID Director Anthony Fauci. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Children under age 12 will "very likely" be able to get vaccinated for coronavirus at the "earliest the end of the year, and very likely the first quarter of 2022," NIAID Director Anthony Fauci told "Meet the Press" Sunday.

Why it matters: Children generally aren't at risk of serious coronavirus infections, but vaccinating them will be key to protecting the adults around them and, eventually, reaching herd immunity, writes Axios' Caitlin Owens.