Transportation Department will 'no longer assume' commercial drivers are human

Transportation Department will 'no longer assume' commercial drivers are human
© Greg Nash

The Transportation Department (DOT) on Thursday announced it will "no longer assume" commercial drivers are human, paving the way for a greater number of automated vehicles to hit the road.

In a new set of guidelines, the department said it will change federal standards to "accommodate automated vehicle technologies." Those adaptations will relax safety standards that have kept carmakers from publicly releasing their driverless automobiles, according to multiple reports. 

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Today's federal guidelines pose several obstacles that prevent automated cars from being produced en masse. The DOT's latest announcement signals it is increasingly willing to shift authority over safety guidelines from the government to the companies that are producing the cars, The Washington Post reported

The new guidance asks companies to voluntarily defend what makes their cars safe for public release. Though the department has been asking for those defenses, only four companies have offered them publicly, according to the Post

Transportation Secretary Elaine ChaoElaine Lan ChaoGeorge H.W. Bush remembered at Kennedy Center Honors Trump, first lady attend special Supreme Court ceremony for Kavanaugh 5 ways Democrats can turn the House win into future success MORE said Thursday that automated vehicles "could potentially save thousands of lives," the newspaper reported.

The new guidance will allow autonomous trucks to travel across the country without violating laws, Bloomberg reported.

Many in the trucking industry have supported the rise of driverless vehicles, as cross-country truckers face high rates of accidents and fatalities. 

“This is a sound and substantive framework that rightly recognizes commercial vehicles are essential to any serious [autonomous vehicle] policy,” said Chris Spear, president of the American Trucking Associations, in a statement cited by Bloomberg.