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article imageObama endorses self-driving cars as U.S. issues safety checklist

By Lucky Malicay     Sep 20, 2016 in Technology
Washington - In an opinion piece published in The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, United States President Barack Obama endorsed self-driving vehicles as long as they are safe, as the U.S. government outlined a new policy on autonomous cars.
As things have been a little different nowadays than when he first assumed the presidency, Obama hailed American innovation, saying autonomous vehicles have become a reality from being a sci-fi fantasy with the potential to transform the way people live.
His statement comes a day after ride-sharing service Lyft co-founder and chief executive John Zimmer predicted that private car ownership will end in major American cities by 2025 and a week after industry giant Uber launched a groundbreaking driverless car service in Pittsburgh.
“Right now, too many people die on our roads – 35,200 last year alone – with 94 percent of those the result of human error or choice. Automated vehicles have the potential to save tens of thousands of lives each year. And right now, for too many senior citizens and Americans with disabilities, driving isn’t an option. Automated vehicles could change their lives,” Obama wrote.
“Safer, more accessible driving. Less congested, less polluted roads. That’s what harnessing technology for good can look like. But we have to get it right. Americans deserve to know they’ll be safe today even as we develop and deploy the technologies of tomorrow.”
Obama said his administration is implementing new road safety rules for automated vehicles and that it is asking developers to sign a 15-point safety checklist for driverless car systems.
He said the national government is helping guide the states on the need to regulate the new technologies to give people the confidence that self-driving vehicles are safe.
The president also announced the first-ever White House Frontiers Conference that will discuss the future of innovation in the country and around the world. The October 13 gathering will be held in Pittsburgh.
“The progress we’ve seen in automated vehicles over the past several years shows what our country is capable of when our engineers and entrepreneurs, our scientists and our students – backed by federal and private investment – pour their best work and brightest ideas toward a big, bold goal. That’s the spirit that has propelled us forward since before the automobile was invented. Now it’s up to us to keep driving toward a better future for everyone” he added.
Obama’s opinion piece also comes on the day the government announced a new regulatory framework amid the rapid rise of self-driving automobile technology.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said the federal government is setting the safety standards for autonomous cars, stressing that they want to work with developers such as Uber and Alphabet (Google) without suppressing their endeavors.
The 15-point Safety Assessment include: (1) Operational Design Domain: How and where the HAV is supposed to function and operate; (2) Object and Event Detection and Response: Perception and response functionality of the HAV system; (3) Fall Back (Minimal Risk Condition): Response and robustness of the HAV upon system failure; (4) Validation Methods: Testing, validation, and verification of an HAV system; (5) Registration and Certification: Registration and certification to NHTSA of an HAV system; (6) Data Recording and Sharing: HAV system data recording for information sharing, knowledge building and for crash reconstruction purposes; (7) Post-Crash Behavior: Process for how an HAV should perform after a crash and how automation functions can be restored; (8) Privacy: Privacy considerations and protections for users; (9) System Safety: Engineering safety practices to support reasonable system safety; (10) Vehicle Cybersecurity: Approaches to guard against vehicle hacking risks; (11) Human Machine Interface: Approaches for communicating information to the driver, occupant and other road users; (12) Crashworthiness: Protection of occupants in crash situations; (13) Consumer Education and Training: Education and training requirements for users of HAVs; (14) Ethical Considerations: How vehicles are programmed to address conflict dilemmas on the road; and (15) Federal, State and Local Laws: How vehicles are programmed to comply with all applicable traffic laws.
The White House's National Economic Council director Jeff Zients said the government is supporting the development of autonomous cars because they will save Americans money, time and lives, adding the reason the rules are being put in place is for them to get on the road quickly and safely.
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