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Car and Driver: Google, Ford, Volvo, Uber, and Lyft Form Autonomous-Car Superlobbying Group


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The band Cream is largely credited with being the first rock “supergroup.” Consisting of Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce, and Ginger Baker, the three established musicians formed the iconic band in the summer of 1966. Fast-forward nearly 50 years later, and the latest supergroup isn’t a band, but a coalition—or lobbying group, really—of transportation and technology companies.


Comprised of Ford, Volvo, Uber, Google, and Lyft, the Self-Driving Coalition for Safer Streets will “work with lawmakers, regulators, and the public to realize the safety and societal benefits of self-driving vehicles,” the group said in a released statement.


With the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) finding that traffic fatalities in the first nine months of 2015 were up by approximately 9.3 percent over the previous year (bringing the total amount of casualties to more than 26,000), there’s a belief that autonomous cars can help lower the country’s growing number of traffic-related deaths.


Tasked with relaying this message to regulators is the coalition’s spokesperson and counsel David Strickland, the former NHTSA administrator. Strickland, who resigned from NHTSA’s top post in late 2013, now is a partner at Venable, LLP, a law firm that represents the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the Automotive Warranty and Service Contract Association, and the National Automotive Finance Association, among others.


“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.


Currently, autonomous car regulations generally differ by state. In California—much to the chagrin of Google—regulators have proposed rules that would require an autonomous car to retain basic controls, like a steering wheel and brake and accelerator pedals, so that a licensed driver can manually override the vehicle’s self-driving capabilities.


Contrary to California, Florida recently passed legislation that allows autonomous vehicles to operate within the state without the presence of a “human operator,” and earlier this year NHTSA declared that Google’s self-driving artificial intelligence can qualify as a “driver.” Sort of, anyway.


In an effort to create consistency, NHTSA has announced plans to release a new set of guidelines for self-driving cars in July. Surely the Self-Driving Coalition for Safer Streets will attempt to have a hand in crafting the language within the forthcoming guidelines.


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