A who's-who of carmakers, technology companies, and ride-sharing startups are joining forces to pressure the federal government on the issue of self-driving cars. Ford, Google, Uber, Lyft, and Volvo announced Tuesday the formation of the Self-Driving Coalition for Safer Streets, a lobbying group with the express purpose of advocating autonomous driving. It's a power move by some of the most high-profile names behind the still nascent technology, made at a time when regulators and policymakers in Washington, DC are still wrapping their heads around the concept of self-driving cars.
"Self-driving vehicle technology will make America's roadways safer and less congested."
The coalition will be headed up by David Strickland, a former administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). He will serve as the group's counsel and spokesperson. In essence, Strickland will be lobbying his former agency, which has been tasked by Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx to come up with a set of rules for self-driving cars by early summer.
"Self-driving vehicle technology will make America's roadways safer and less congested," Strickland said in a statement. "The best path for this innovation is to have one clear set of federal standards, and the Coalition will work with policymakers to find the right solutions that will facilitate the deployment of self-driving vehicles."
The timing of the announcement is significant because NHTSA is about to convene the second of two public hearings on self-driving cars. The first was held at DOT's headquarters in Washington, DC. The second is Wednesday at Stanford University in the heart of Silicon Valley.
Google has been the most visible company to test self-driving technology, with dozens of self-driving Lexus SUVs and Google-designed prototypes racking up over a million miles of autonomous driving in three US cities. Ford has been testing its own technology on its Dearborn, Michigan, campus; meanwhile Uber is building its own research facility devoted to self-driving cars in Pittsburgh. Lyft recently teamed up with General Motors (which is noticeably not a member of the coalition) to create a fleet of self-driving, for-hire vehicles. And Volvo announced its plan to test 100 autonomous vehicles in China.
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