US Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said Sunday that she would be reevaluating the Obama administration’s rules for self-driving cars and challenged the automotive and technology industries to better educate the public about the safety features of automated driving.
Speaking at the National Governors Association’s winter meeting, Chao said she wanted to “issue a challenge to Silicon Valley, Detroit and all other auto industry hubs to step up and help educate a skeptical public about the benefits of automated technologies,” according to Politico.
She also said that her agency was poring over the Obama guidance “to ensure that it strikes the right balance.” Last September, the federal government released its first rulebook governing the manufacture and sale of self-driving cars — everything from nearly autonomous Teslas to Google cars without steering wheels or foot pedals.
Under the new rules, companies that are building and testing self-driving cars would be required to share extensive amounts of data with federal regulators. Naturally, the big companies working on self-driving technology pushed back against these requests, arguing they could slow the pace of innovation and lead states to adopt the guidelines as mandatory.
Chao also said she was “very concerned” about the impact of automated technology on the labor force. “As a former secretary of labor, I am very, very concerned about that and very cognizant of those challenges,” she said. “So we do have to transition people and we need to keep that in mind.”
Experts predict that autonomous driving will be particularly disruptive to industries like trucking, which employ hundreds of thousands of Americans. Otto, a self-driving truck startup owned by Uber, already conducted of shipment of beer in Colorado where the driver watched the truck drive itself from the sleeper berth. Another startup, Embark, is testing its self-driving big rigs in Nevada. It stands to reason that the Trump administration wants to avoid the bad PR that would accompany scores of drivers losing their jobs to automation.