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Obama to give green light for self-driving cars on US highways

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By Christopher Cummins  with Agencies
Obama to give green light for self-driving cars on US highways

The Obama administration is due to unveil a policy framework to govern the development of self-driving cars.

Manufactures will be well aware that the move signals a green light for driverless technology on US highways in the not too distant future.

The White House will ask the developers to sign a 15-point safety checklist.

The guidelines will include testing backup systems in the case of an autonomous car computer failure as well as recording and sharing data.

How the vehicle will react in a driving dilemma will be high on the list along with how it copes in a crash and in the immediate aftermath.

The industry suffered a serious setback in June when 40-year-old Joshua Brown was killed while travelling in a self-driving car.

Tesla, the manufacturers, said the accident happened because the autopilot, which is still undergoing tests, failed to distinguish between a white truck and the bright sky.

However, car accidents are a daily occurance in the US: in 2015 40,000 people were killed in road traffic accidents.

The US government and the industry believe that self-driving cars have the potential to make driving safer.

Chris Urmson, the director of Google’s driverless car programme, said: “I think that’s one of the things that we have to together work through is that this technology has so much opportunity to save lives, and the fact that 94 percent of the accidents that happen on our roads are due to human error means that if we can take a big bite out of that by bringing this technology to bear, we all win from that.”

As it stands individual states can set the rules regarding computer operated vehicles, something the manufactures believe impedes standardised development.

In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Uber is testing an autonomous car rental system on the roads. The new technology will create a whole new industry with vast potential.

Bill Peduto, the mayor of Pittsburgh, said: “It is something that will help us to be at the forefront of an entire new economy that’s being built under autonomous vehicles.”

The race is now on to produce a safe self-driving car, which industry watchers believe will be an integral part of the way people move around within five years.