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US Transport secretary confirms Trump administration will unveil new self-driving guidelines

The US Transportation Department has confirmed that revised self-driving guidelines will be unveiled by US President Donald Trump's administration within the next few months. The announcement was made following mounting pressure from technology companies and car manufacturers who are aggressively pursuing automated vehicle technologies.

Automakers and technological firms have both been vocal in their demands that regulations are removed and barriers be eliminated in order to allow autonomous vehicles on the road. However, following months of speculation, the US Transportation Department has finally issued a statement confirming that the Trump administration will unveil new guidelines on self-driving.

Secretary for the US Transportation Department, Elaine Chao conceded that pressure was increasing on the federal government to make a decision on self-driving technology - but was adamant that the federal government proceeds with caution before implementing any binding rules in relation to autonomous vehicles.

She said, "The pressure is mounting for the federal government to do something about autonomous vehicles, U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said on Monday in Detroit. However, I think federal government should be careful before setting binding rules to govern autonomous vehicles. We don't want rules that impede future technological advances."

However, Chao refused to be drawn on what the department's proposals would be, or how they would differ from policy guidance from what was proposed by the Obama administration. Analysts are predicting that the new regulatory policies set to be proposed will be what the technology firms desire as part of Trumps plan to create a strong relationship between his administration and the leading tech firms in Silicon Valley. Trump has previously spoken of his desire to see US technology firms create more jobs at home - and also to manufacture its products and services in the US - once calling for Apple to stop manufacturing its phones in China.

Waymo, General Motors Co, Ford Motor Co, Uber, Tesla are all pursuing automated vehicles and self-driving platforms for its respective organizations. However, Chief Technology Officer at Ford, Ken Washington said it's time for a ‘concrete regulatory framework' to be put in place. He said, "We need a more concrete regulatory framework. Automakers could use a clear set of rules to certify on their own that an autonomous vehicle is safe, as they can now with conventional vehicles."

Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford Jr echoed the sentiments of Washington and expressed confidence that the hardware and software required for self-driving cars will be ready by 2021. However, he voiced his concerns over many of the ethical issues that still loom large over the technology. The US Transport secretary added that the new guidelines proposed will support industry innovation and aim to encourage new entrants to join the sector in order to deliver new ideas and safer vehicles.

A US Senate committee is also planning a hearing this month on self-driving cars, whilst Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee have been working on a package of legislation specifically designed to make it easier to get self-driving cars on the road.

The Obama guidelines called on automakers to voluntarily submit details of self-driving vehicle systems to regulators in a 15-point "safety assessment" and urge states to defer to the federal government on most vehicle regulations. Automakers have raised numerous concerns about the guidance, including that it requires them to turn over significant data, could delay testing by months and lead to states making the voluntary guidelines mandatory.