Teaming Up

The development of self-driving technology is typically bounded along company lines—Google makes self-driving cars that charge wirelessly; Uber develops autonomous taxis; BMW wants a shape-shifting, self-driving car; and Tesla is designing a car with an autopilot feature.

The rivalry between these companies is often intense—not to mention cutthroat. So what happens when they band together like the superheroes they are?

Hopefully, magic.

A new alliance—called, somewhat pompously, the Self-Driving Coalition for Safer Streets—is being formed to tackle lobbying on US regulations for self-driving cars. The list of members sounds like a "who's who" of tech companies: Google, Uber, Volvo, Ford, and Lyft.

The lobbying group was made with the express purpose of advocating autonomous driving and pressuring the federal government to act on the issue of self-driving cars.

Advocating Autonomy

Heading the coalition is David Strickland, a former senior official at the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), who will act as the coalition’s counsel and spokesman.

NHTSA is the agency that has been tasked by Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx to come up with a set of rules for self-driving cars by early summer.

In a statement, Strickland said the group hopes to lobby for the development of one national, over-arching self-driving car policy, rather than work with patchwork state-by-state regulations.

“The best path for this innovation is to have one clear set of federal standards, and the Coalition will work with policymakers to find the right solutions that will facilitate the deployment of self-driving vehicles,” Strickland said in a statement on Tuesday.

The agency notes that there were 32,675 fatalities and 2.3 million people injured in 6.1 million crashes on U.S. roads in 2014. NHTSA says about 94% of all traffic crashes are caused by human error.

The announcement comes as NHTSA is about to convene the second of two public hearings on self-driving cars. The first was held at DOT's headquarters in Washington, DC. The second is Wednesday at Stanford University in the heart of Silicon Valley.

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