What will a Trump Presidency mean for self-driving cars?

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【Summary】What will a Trump Presidency mean for self-driving cars?

Anthony    Jan 21, 2017 7:45 PM PT
What will a Trump Presidency mean for self-driving cars?

On January 20th, 2017 Donald Trump will become the President of the United States. While expected to be mostly pro-business in his operational, strategic and tactical engagements, many stakeholders in the autonomous car industry are asking what Trump's position will be on "the cars of the future?"

According to one article:

"Carmakers and tech companies … are expressing hope that President-elect Donald Trump will continue the current administration's approach to regulating self-driving cars, which has so far avoided making any concrete rules or mandates.

"Extrapolating President-elect Trump's posture on regulations, he's clearly looking to having a much lighter regulatory environment," said David Strickland, a lawyer and former federal administrator who now heads a lobbying group formed by Uber, Google, Volvo, Ford, and Lyft."

Basically over the past eight years, the U.S. government has provided loose guidelines for the autonomous car industrial players. There has been no desire to stifle innovation. Regulators don't want 50 different sets of rules for 50 states. Obviously there has to be some kind of broad strategic architecture. Just as each American doesn't build their own section of highway, so too do we need a semblance of national standards.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's recently released guidelines but they are not enforceable laws. In reality, they are more or less a body of suggestions. The NHTSA has asked Uber, Ford, Google and others to share their cybersecurity and safety data with the U.S. government. Various ethical issues relating to autonomous cars will be discussed. This is all voluntary of course. Just as the Internet burst onto the scene in America between 1995 - 1997, so too are autonomous cars catching the fancy of the public. As such, automakers and technology companies don't want the data they share with the federal government to boomerang and come back to haunt them.

The NHTSA wants transparency, but they also promise to protect confidential information. As Obama appointees are replaced by Trump appointees in the Department of Transportation, it appears that an anti-regulatory and free market-oriented approach will be implemented.

The article cited above adds that, "Transportation experts are also scratching their heads over Trump. What are his views on Google's self-driving cars? Or Uber's? Does he believe they will save lives or jeopardize them? Are they the future of transportation or just a passing fad? Many are concerned that Trump will endanger the U.S.'s position at the forefront of innovation in transportation."

Trump is known for his short attention span. (See this Saturday Night Live Skit as an example.) He's also known for changing his positions on a variety of issues. The issues around autonomous cars are incredibly complex and in the United States, over one-third of commuters say they have zero interest in an autonomous car controlled by a robot brain and no pedals or steering wheel. Americans have a strong streak of independence. This is a nation born in a rebellion against King George of England. Who can say for sure how things will play out over the next four or eight years. Probably "future car" development will continue on as it has been over the past eight years, fraught with ups and downs and highs and lows.

One could easily see Trump depending heavily on his advisors in this regard. With so many moving parts, it would be in the best interests of Trump, and the nation to heed the advice of those who have been heavily involved with "future car" development. 

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