Car makers ask the US to slow down on rules for self-driving tech

Officials are moving too quickly to make intelligent laws, the industry says.

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LiPo Ching/Bay Area News Group/TNS via Getty Images
LiPo Ching/Bay Area News Group/TNS via Getty Images

You might think that car brands would want governments to approve self-driving cars quickly so that sales can start as soon as possible, but it turns out that they're quite cautious. The Global Automakers industry group (which includes numerous heavyweights) used a public hearing on April 8th to ask US officials to slow down while crafting regulations for autonomous driving tech. Supposedly, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is moving too quickly by pushing for finished guidelines by July. It's tying itself to "arbitary, self-imposed deadlines" instead of allowing "robust and thoughtful" analysis, the industry says.

Instead, the organization wants the US to take a gradual, nuanced approach where it tackles short- and long-term issues as they come up. The rules should account for different levels of automation, the group notes -- assistant features like Tesla's Autopilot (where you still need to pay attention) aren't the same as fully hands-off experiences. There are also concerns about having enough time to ensure that privacy and safety get their due. All told, automakers are hoping to avoid guidelines that are either too onerous or lead to a rash of accidents that make manufacturers look bad.

How closely the NHTSA listens is another matter. It contends that there should be some kind of rulemaking in the near future, since semi-autonomous vehicles (like Tesla's) are already on the road. It's harder to impose changes on cars that already exist, after all. While the administration is likely to take some of Global Automakers' advice into account, it may decide that an imperfect but timely rulebook is better than nothing.

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