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US Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx revealed plans for a six month initiative to prepare for a world of autonomous vehicles, as well as details of a $3.9 billion plan to make this world a reality by encouraging development of the technology over the next decade.
Foxx warned that US transportation infrastructure will not be able to to cope with future population growth, saying that forecasts predict that some three quarters of Americans will live in one of 11 “megacities” by 2045. “If the government doesn’t change its ways, drivers in the future won’t be moving on our highways, they will be crawling,” he said.
While Google is so far the leading player in the self-driving vehicles world, most car manufacturers are working on prototypes of their own, or scrambling to catch up to the leaders. The first consumer self-driving cars could hit the streets within the next four years, according to Ford CEO Mark Fields. It’s no wonder that the Department of Transportation (DoT) is planning to act fast. “We are bullish on automated vehicles,” Foxx said.
The DoT, together with automakers, will develop over the coming six months a national policy on how to deal with autonomous vehicles. The policy will be “a common understanding of the performance characteristics necessary for fully autonomous vehicles and the testing and analysis methods needed to assess them,” a release read. Generally, the DoT is seeking as safe as possible a way to introduce self-driving cars to US streets.
To this end, the White House will spend $3.9 billion on pilot programmes to test “connected vehicle systems” throughout the US. Officials believe that self-driving cars have the potential to reduce accidents and save lives.
“We know that 83 percent of car accidents are due to human error,” Foxx said. “What happens if human error could be eliminated? That’s a powerful possibility, and that’s a possibility worth pursuing.”