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Chao, speaking to a safety conference Monday, said the Transportation Department is moving quickly to update voluntary guidelines for autonomous vehicles that were published last year by the Obama administration. Auto executives and tech companies have pressed Washington to take a light-handed approach to regulating the development of cars that can drive themselves, saying cumbersome rules could slow the introduction of innovations that could reverse a rising number of traffic fatalities or make Americans more efficient.
Chao, however, said Silicon Valley tech firms and car companies need to be more forthcoming with information so that the government can make an informed decision and the public can trust the companies and regulators. She said self-driving cars could lower traffic fatalities, which rose 8 percent over the first nine months of 2016 — and, with fewer accidents and other factors that cause congestion, a reduction in what researchers have estimated to be $300m lost as Americans spend 6.9 billion hours in traffic annually.
To date, highway safety officials haven't aggressively regulated autonomous-vehicle development with the stringent approach applied to conventional auto-safety gear or fuel-economy performance. Auto makers often point to regulatory costs as being overly burdensome and out of step with what buyers really want.
The Trump administration is aware of the pitfalls of over-regulating an emerging technology in the car business, Chao said.
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