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US government announces $4 billion self-driving car program

The US DoT will have a national blueprint for autonomous vehicles within 6 months.

Turns out we're way closer to our self-driving car future than most of us expected. US Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced at the Detroit Auto Show (pdf) Thursday that the Obama administration will have a national blueprint for autonomous vehicle standards by July. What's more the administration is earmarking $4 billion of the 2017 budget to create a decade-long program that will support and accelerate development of the technology.

"We are on the cusp of a new era in automotive technology with enormous potential to save lives, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and transform mobility for the American people," Secretary Foxx said in a statement.

Currently, each state has individual laws regarding the burgeoning technology. This forces automakers and early adopters like Google to juggle multiple sets of rules and regulations, depending on where in the country the technology is being built. For example, California recently decided that a human "driver" be present at all times should something go wrong. This program should reduce the number of hoops companies have to jump through by creating an overarching, national-level development framework.