Trump’s self-driving car strategy: Don’t regulate self-driving cars
Caleb Watney, a self-driving vehicle researcher at the free-market R Street Institute, says that this is a pared-down version of a 15-point list found in the Obama guidance a year ago. The Trump administration dropped a few items—like privacy protections—but took the same basic approach.
And while the guidance is purely optional now, the list could still become significant, because Congress is considering legislation that could make it mandatory for companies to consider these factors.
Even if that legislation passes, however, the regulatory burden here would still be rather light. Manufacturers would have to submit a “safety assessment certification” that lays out how they expect to deal with these issues, as well as data demonstrating that the vehicles can operate safely. Yet the manufacturers would still have a lot of discretion to decide how to define and measure these factors. And federal regulators would not have the authority to block deployment of self-driving vehicles based on the contents of these certifications.
Watney told Ars that, beyond the Trump administration’s generally deregulatory philosophy, there are two other reasons the Trump administration hasn’t been more active about crafting new self-driving car regulations.
One is that Donald Trump still hasn’t named an administrator for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the agency responsible for Tuesday’s guidance. That means major NHTSA decisions are being overseen by Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, who is “being pulled in a million different directions,” according to Watney. Chao oversees several agencies besides NHTSA, which is why NHTSA is supposed to have a full-time administrator. With that seat vacant, NHTSA is struggling to do a thorough job shaping autonomous vehicle policy.