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Trump administration makes move on self-driving cars

A self-driving pizza delivery vehicle. Photo: Dee-Ann Durbin/AP

The Trump administration took its first step into the regulation of self-driving cars and trucks that could transform the nation's roadways. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao rolled out updated voluntary guidelines for the vehicles during an appearance in Michigan:

  • They clarify that you don't need to get pre-approval from the Department of Transportation before deploying a autonomous vehicles, the department's agency tasked with the issue said on Tuesday. That's in line with the industry-friendly leanings of the Trump administration.
  • They also make other changes industry will appreciate, like pulling back on data-sharing requirements for companies and removing privacy from a clear part of the guidance, the agency said.
  • And the guidelines clear up the role of state and federal governments. Automakers and technology companies don't want a patchwork of state safety regulations.

The big picture: Federal authorities are trying to stake out their place in dealing with self-driving technology as Detroit and Silicon Valley race ahead. The House has already approved a bill that would accelerate testing, and the Senate is in the process of vetting a similar proposal.

The other coast: Industry likes the changes. The head of a coalition of self-driving car manufacturers including Waymo, Uber and Ford, said that it was "pleased to see the Trump Administration continuing the work to bring fully self-driving vehicles to U.S. roads." Intel said it applauded the agency's move.

Yes, but: Not everyone is a fan of the new guidelines. "After waiting months for the Trump Administration to release its vision for self-driving cars, AV Guidance 2.0 is a step backwards," said two top Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Frank Pallone and Jan Schakowsky, in a statement. "Instead of focusing on safety and ensuring car makers are properly testing these vehicles, the Administration chose to cave to industry and pressure states into not acting."

Consumers Union, meanwhile, said strong federal oversight is needed and that the Department of Transportation "should be asking more of automakers, not less" when it comes to safety.