A new report from Axios reveals President Trump is just as skeptical of self-driving cars as regular Americans. However, while Trump may thing self-driving cars are dangerous, his Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao is moving forward with an open mind about new technologies. At the SXSW conference, Chao announced a new regulatory body designed to speed up adopting new cutting edge technologies such as self-driving cars. That doesn’t change the fact Trump appears skeptical about driverless cars.
According to the news outlet, “Trump has acted out scenes of self-driving cars veering out of control and crashing into walls.” President Trump also thinks autonomous vehicles make little sense, even saying he’d never trust a computer to drive him around. When Trump met Tesla CEO Elon Musk in 2017, Trump allegedly told Musk he prefers “traditional cars” when the two were discussing Tesla’s Autopilot technology.
While President Trump has allegedly been vocal about his distrust of self-driving vehicles, he’s taken a hands-off approach in policymaking decisions regarding the technology. However, one Axios source said he thinks it wouldn’t take much for Trump to reverse his administration’s more hands-off approach to regulating the technology. The source added Trump could use negative press coverage to solidify his position.
News of Trump’s skepticism comes as the U.S. Department of Transportation moves GM’s petition to operate its fourth-generation Cruise AV self-driving vehicle, which lacks manual control such as a steering wheel and pedals, into the public comment phase. For the next 60 days, anyone can comment on GM’s request to circumvent current Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards that require manual controls in vehicles operating on U.S. roads.
Without little federal regulations in place for self-driving cars, a patchwork of state laws has governed their development. The right federal regulations could speed up development of self-driving vehicle going forward; however, federal regulators could hinder development, too, giving the process more red tape than what’s arguably needed.