With some cities using autonomous vehicle technology to rethink their public transportation and infrastructure, the federal government is helping encourage the technology’s spread. President Obama announced in a September editorial new federal rules to facilitate the gradual introduction of driverless vehicles on American roads. The plan consists of a 15-point safety assessment of the vehicles and proposes model legislation that states and cities can follow to facilitate their adoption. The Transportation Department describes autonomous vehicles as “the next revolution in roadway safety,” arguing that most of the 40,000 traffic-related deaths in 2015 could have been avoided if human drivers were replaced by algorithms. It also describes the benefits of providing the elderly, children, and other non-drivers with a cleaner and easier means of transportation. John Zimmer, co-founder of Lyft, imagines the autonomous vehicle as a transformative force to reshape our congested cities, the antidote to its flawed ancestor, the manually controlled car.
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