Obama expected to launch program to spur on self-driving cars

Google autonomous self-driving pod car

Google's self-driving pod car has no steering wheel. Currently, California is considering regulations that would require a human driver behind every autonomous vehicle's steering wheel.

Credit: Google

Currently, there are no federal guidelines for self-driving cars on U.S. roadways

The Obama administration is expected to announce new efforts to accelerate the development of self-driving cars, according to several published reports.

Mark Rosekind, head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, told reporters that Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx will announce the self-driving car efforts in Detroit.

There are no federal laws governing driverless cars on U.S. roadways. States such as California and Texas have drafted rules on how autonomous vehicles can be tested on roadways. California's Department of Motor Vehicles' draft rules require a human driver to be behind the wheel of a self-driving car, which would be a blow to Google's self-driving pod car, which has no steering wheel.

Google self-driving pod car Creative Commons Lic.

Google's autonomous cars have driven more than 1 million miles on California and Texas roadways.

Google, under its Alphabet Inc. subsidiary, has stated that its self-driving car has driven more than 1 million miles on public roadways and is currently out on the streets of Mountain View, Calif., and Austin, Texas.

Most large car makers have announced their own plans for semi- or fully autonomous vehicles. Many have opened R&D facilities in Silicon Valley to develop the software required for self-driving cars.

The Wall Street Journal and other sources have also reported that Apple plans to ship its own a car in 2019, and that the company has been hiring auto industry veterans for the secret project (code-named Titan).

Automakers and technology companies have asked federal regulators to clarify self-driving car guidelines. For example, legal experts are still uncertain over who would be responsible in the case of an accident -- the vehicle owner, the manufacturer or the GPS system service provider.

According to a Reuters, a Google spokesman said the company will take part in tomorrow's announcement.

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