Google, Uber, and Lyft are joining forces to accelerate the adoption of self driving cars, forming a coalition with carmakers Ford and Volvo to lobby U.S. policy makers and influence the public debate on the future of autonomous transportation.
The tech companies, ride-hailing services, and car manufacturers announced Tuesday that the group will focus not only on influencing regulators, but persuading other businesses and city managers of the financial and public safety benefits of autonomous cars.
Dubbed the Self-Driving Coalition for Safer Streets, the group will be led by David Strickland, a former chief of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
"Self-driving vehicle technology will make America's roadways safer and less congested," Strickland said in a statement to BuzzFeed News. "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."
For tech and car companies eager to dominate the fledgling industry, a patchwork of state laws poses an immediate roadblock. Last month, representatives of Google and Lyft told lawmakers that the crisscrossing demands of state regulations present unworkable obligations for transportation companies. Working towards a unified policy on autonomous vehicles that extends across state-lines will likely be a primary goal for the group.
For critics and regulators, sorting out novel safety guidelines, which have yet to be defined, remains a top priority. $4 billion has been dedicated by the federal government to test and research driverless car initiatives, as part of President Obama’s proposed 2017 budget.
As part of its public relations campaign, the coalition will also seize on projections made by the Department of Transportation, which suggest driverless cars may significantly improve public safety, reducing the number and severity of car accidents. As the group notes, citing Transportation Department research, human error causes an estimated 94% of road accidents.
On Wednesday, the NHTSA, Strickland’s former agency, will hold its second public forum on self-driving cars at Stanford University.
Hamza Shaban is a technology policy reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.
Contact Hamza Shaban at Hamza.Shaban@buzzfeed.com.
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