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The Obama Administration has announced that the United States Department of Transportation will be making it easier for companies to innovate around driverless vehicles. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said that the president proposed spending nearly $4 billion over the next decade to make autonomous cars safer.

“We are on the cusp of a new era in automotive technology with enormous potential to save lives, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and transform mobility for the American people,” said Foxx in a statement. “Today’s actions and those we will pursue in the coming months will provide the foundation and the path forward for manufacturers, state officials, and consumers to use new technologies and achieve their full safety potential.”

President Obama’s 2017 fiscal year budget will provide money for pilot programs to test connected vehicles in “designated corridors” around the country, along with establishing a framework for connected and autonomous vehicles.

As part of the administration’s plans are milestones that state within six months, the National Highway and Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) will collaborate with those in the industry on standards to safely deploy and operate autonomous vehicles. The government agency has also been tasked to work with state partners, motor vehicle departments, and other stakeholders on a national policy to regulate the cars.

In addition, the government will provide safety exemptions for up to 2,500 vehicles for up to two years if the NHTSA determines that by doing so, it will “ease development of new safety features.”

Secretary Foxx’s announcement comes after a busy 2015 in which not only Tesla announced the beta release of its self-driving feature, but also other manufacturers were looking at creating autonomous vehicles. Tech companies like Google and Uber have made it no secret that they’re working on this effort as well, so it’s likely that when the government comes to work with Silicon Valley, these firms will play a prominent role in shaping the next generation of transportation.


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