Obama: Innovation’s Excellent, Safety’s Paramount

As Uber begins deploying self-driving cars on the streets of Pittsburgh, and, as some argue, too soon before government regulation can address safely considerations, President Barack Obama published an op-ed in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on this issue. From the op-ed:

Right now, too many people die on our roads – 35,200 last year alone – with 94 percent of those the result of human error or choice. Automated vehicles have the potential to save tens of thousands of lives each year. And right now, for too many senior citizens and Americans with disabilities, driving isn’t an option. Automated vehicles could change their lives.

Safer, more accessible driving. Less congested, less polluted roads. That’s what harnessing technology for good can look like. But we have to get it right. Americans deserve to know they’ll be safe today even as we develop and deploy the technologies of tomorrow.

That’s why my administration is rolling out new rules of the road for automated vehicles – guidance that the manufacturers developing self-driving cars should follow to keep us safe. And we’re asking them to sign a 15-point safety checklist showing not just the government, but every interested American, how they’re doing it.

We’re also giving guidance to states on how to wisely regulate these new technologies, so that when a self-driving car crosses from Ohio into Pennsylvania, its passengers can be confident that other vehicles will be just as responsibly deployed and just as safe.

There are always those who argue that government should stay out of free enterprise entirely, but I think most Americans would agree we still need rules to keep our air and water clean, and our food and medicine safe. That’s the general principle here. What’s more, the quickest way to slam the brakes on innovation is for the public to lose confidence in the safety of new technologies.

Both government and industry have a responsibility to make sure that doesn’t happen. And make no mistake: If a self-driving car isn’t safe, we have the authority to pull it off the road. We won’t hesitate to protect the American public’s safety.

We’re determined to help the private sector get this technology right from the start. Because technology isn’t just about the latest gadget or app – it’s about making people’s lives better. That’s going to be the focus of the first-ever White House Frontiers Conference on Oct. 13. And what better place to hold it than Pittsburgh – a city that has harnessed innovation to redefine itself as a center for technology, health care and education.

Read the full op-ed here.

Previous coverage on self-driving cars in Conduit Street: 

Uber’s Pittsburgh: Governing Greenlighted, Or Asleep At Wheel?

The Vehicles Are Coming… And They’re Driving Themselves!

Are We There Yet? Autonomous Vehicles and the Future of Transportation

First Fatal Accident For Self-Driving Car As Working Group Prepares Recommendations For Maryland

Working Group Preparing Recommendations For Autonomous Vehicles in Maryland

MACo Calls for County Representation on Proposed Self-Driving Vehicle Task Force

MACo Requests Additional Representation on Proposed Self-Driving Vehicle Task Force

Working Group Tackles How Maryland Must Prepare for Self-Driving Cars