Department of Transportation releases new self-driving vehicle guidelines

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"The new Guidance supports further development of this important new technology, which has the potential to change the way we travel and how we deliver goods and services", said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao in a statement.

U.S government on Tuesday released a new guidance for self-driving safety assessments, saying the guideline is voluntary and not regulations.

The Trump administration will alter the course set by the Obama administration on autonomous vehicle policy after industry raised concerns about elements of that initial proposal. There are no fully self-driving vehicles for sale, but autonomous cars with backup drivers are being tested in numerous states, including California, Nevada and Pennsylvania.

While many of today's automobiles have enhanced technological features, tomorrow's vehicles will build upon them and with each new model year, manufacturers will leverage more AV technologies to allow for a wider and more precise worldview outside the self-driving auto that enables it to be navigated more safely, she said.

The move is considered a win for automakers and manufacturers of autonomous technologies who want self-driving cars regulated at a federal level rather than having to deal with different requirements in different states.

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Every year, more than 30,000 Americans die in motor vehicle-related crashes.

"Creativity and innovation are part of the great genius of our country, America", Chao said.

"Because safety has been, must be and will remain our number one priority", said Chao. Early estimates indicate there were more than 40,000 traffic fatalities in the US last year, and an estimated 94 percent of crashes involve human error.

Under the new guideline, the federal government does not have a mechanism to force automakers to submit safety assessments before they put self-driving cars on the road, which is welcomed by automakers. But it said automakers should incorporate safeguards that keep drivers' attention engaged and limit the use of automated systems to the areas they were designed for, like highways.

The U.S. House of Representatives voted unanimously to clear legal obstacles that might prevent some companies from ceasing to develop self-driving technology.

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