U.S. Secretary of Transportation visits University of Michigan's Mcity

Secretary Chao reveals new guidance for automated vehicle safety

By Meredith Bruckner - Community News Producer
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The University of Michigan's Mcity autonomous vehicle testing site (Photo: University of MIchigan)

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao visited University of Michigan's autonomous vehicle testing center Mcity on Tuesday, Sept. 12 to announce new government initiatives in the field of driverless vehicle safety.

State representatives, University of Michigan officials and members of the automotive and manufacturing industries were present at the all-day event.

At the press conference, Chao was introduced by University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel. She spoke about the importance of autonomous technology and safety.

 “Our goal at the Department of Transportation is to help usher in this new era of transportation innovation and safety. Ensuring that our country remains a global leader in autonomous technology,” she said.


Secretary Chao says driverless cars could pave the way for the elderly and disabled to have improved mobility

She also spoke about the improvements the technology will bring to the quality of driving in this country. Besides dramatically reducing commuting times, the Department of Transportation hopes it will reduce the rate of car accidents. “94% of serious crashes are caused, unfortunately, by human error.  So automated driving systems hold the promise of significantly reducing these errors," said Chao.  

Though safety is the department's priority, Chao said such technology can help millions of people, including the elderly and people with disabilities, including the blind, "gain access to the freedom of the open road."

Secretary Chao announced the department's new policy titled "A Vision for Safety 2.0." It will build upon the features that today's vehicles already have, including self-parking, advanced cruise control and automatic emergency brakes.

She said that the policy is a non-fixed document, and will be open to changes as the department gathers information and insights from consumers and stakeholders. Chao also revealed that the department is already working on a 3.0 version that will consider issues like cyber security as the technology is incorporated into everyday driving systems. 

Following the conference, Michigan U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell released this statement:

“This updated policy guidance also compliments legislation passed unanimously in the House of Representatives, the SELF DRIVE Act, which establishes a framework for the regulation of self-driving vehicles for the first time. Automated vehicles have the potential to transform mobility in this country – improving our economy and saving lives on the road. This is a unique opportunity for members of both parties to come together to improve safety, support the auto industry’s comeback, and help create more cutting-edge jobs in our state. Today’s announcement brings us one step closer to making this new technology a reality.”

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