Obama Proposes $3.9 Billion For Autonomous Cars

The administration wants to accelerate progress in the robot vehicle industry

Volkswagen's self-driving car employs LiDAR and cameras, that feed into computers in the rear of the vehicle, to navigate and avoid obstacles on roadways.Steve Jurvetson/ Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

At the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Department of Transportation secretary Anthony Foxx announced President Barack Obama's plan for a future with autonomous cars. Obama hinted at the idea of a next generation transportation system during his State of the Union speech earlier this week, and now we know some more specifics. The 10-year plan would devote $3.9 billion to encourage faster innovation in the self-driving car industry.

The budget proposal for the 2017 fiscal year would fund pilot vehicle testing programs in key corridors around the country, and work with leaders in the industry to ensure everything works consistently across different states. "We need these new technologies to work no matter where in the US we are driving," Foxx wrote in a blog post.

Another important piece of this puzzle is to create a model policy framework for connected and self-driving vehicles across the country. Currently, Nevada, California, Michigan, Florida, North Dakota, Tennessee, and Washington, D.C., all have autonomous-car-related legislation, and each is unique.

Foxx also announced updates to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's policy statement from 2013. "The rapid development of emerging automation technologies means that partially and fully automated vehicles are nearing the point at which widespread deployment is feasible," it reads. And the statement goes on to encourage autonomous car developers to utilize the NHTSA's interpretation requests and exemptions to test new fleets for safety.

The announcements highlight the safety and environmental conundra the country faces if the current system is to continue. And autonomous cars seem poised to at least make a dent in both. Ahead of a full vote on the budget proposal, the Department of Transportation will write new rules for testing autonomous vehicle technologies and new regulations in the next six months.

[h/t Gizmodo]