Obama Administration Wants to Spend $4B on Self-Driving Cars

Obama wants to spend nearly $4 billion over 10 years to develop the technology.

Over the next six months, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will come up with a prototype policy and develop best-practices for automakers, Foxx promised today. They’ll also propose new regulatory interpretations, and are encouraging automakers to request regulatory exemptions as soon as they “believe automation advances can be deployed safely.”

The DOT “wants to work with your progress, not hold it back,” Foxx said.

Though driverless technology has grown increasingly popular, autonomous vehicles aren’t perfect yet.

That’s the car telling the driver,“‘I don’t like something that’s going on, you drive now,’” program director Chris Urmson explained at a Transportation Research Board luncheon on Wednesday.

Another 69 times, the driver felt compelled to take the wheel even though the software hadn’t disengaged, the report said.

Google determined 13 of those 69 events were what the company called “simulated contacts” –- in other words, the simulator determined the car would have crashed into something if the driver hadn’t taken over.

By now, normal traffic patterns create few headaches (computer chip aches?) for driverless cars. It’s relatively easy to code for situations you can anticipate. What’s difficult to code for is unpredictable events – say, a woman in an electric wheelchair chasing a flock of ducks in circles mid-road. (Yes, that really happened in front of a google car, Urmson said.)

But such hiccups haven’t dissuaded automakers from major investments in driverless tech.