Federal Officials Are Warming Up To Self-Driving Cars

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As self-driving cars rapidly develop, federal officials are beginning to rethink their stance on the technology. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced yesterday that an update would be coming to the nation’s self-driving car policy in coming weeks.

“I want the posture of our agency to be obviously vigilant on the safety front, but I don’t want our agency to be skittish about innovations that are out there,” Foxx said, according to a report from the Associated Press. 

Two years ago the U.S. Department of Transportation took a more measured approach to self-driving cars. The department put out a policy that said the vehicles’ use should be limited to testing and “not authorized for use by members of the public for general driving purposes.”

The news comes as Google has been expanding the testing of its own self driving vehicles beyond its Mountain View campus and onto California streets and city streets in Austin, Texas. Tesla Motors, Nissan and Honda have also been experimenting with the technology. But in all of these cases, there are drivers behind the wheel ready to take over.

Until now most regulation related to self-driving cars has occurred at the state level. Legislatures in California, Nevada, Michigan, Florida and the District of Columbia have all passed bills regulating autonomous driving. Many other states also have considered such legislation.

With Google pushing to bring self-driving cars to the broad market as soon as the technology is deemed safe, the rules of the road will have to change. Autonomous vehicles will likely drive much of the tech policy debate in 2016.