At the North American International Auto Show on Thursday, January 14, Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx outlined the Obama administration’s “bold proposal” for investing in the future of transportation–autonomous driving. The plan is to spend $3.9 billion over the next 10 years to fund projects that support the development of autonomous vehicles.

Foxx was joined by the CEO of Google’s driverless car program, John Krafcik; GM product chief Mark Reuss; the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) Mark Rosekind; and representatives from Delphi, General Motors, Fiat Chrysler, Ford, Tesla and Volvo.

Autonomous vehicles, said Foxx, offer the chance to “save lives, save time, and save fuel,” remarking that 83% of accidents are due to human error.

SEE: Self-driving cars won the week at CES 2016, with AI and big data the unsung heroes

Foxx offered new policy guidance for the NHTSA’s policy on autonomous vehicles.

As described in the press release from the DOT, here are the proposed goals for 2016:

  • Within six months, NHTSA will work with industry and other stakeholders to develop guidance on the safe deployment and operation of autonomous vehicles, providing a common understanding of the performance characteristics necessary for fully autonomous vehicles and the testing and analysis methods needed to assess them.
  • Within six months, NHTSA will work with state partners, the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, and other stakeholders to develop a model state policy on automated vehicles that offers a path to consistent national policy.
  • Secretary Foxx encouraged manufacturers to submit rule interpretation requests where appropriate to help enable technology innovation. For example, NHTSA responded to an interpretation request from BMW confirming that the company’s remote self-parking system meets federal safety standards. Click here to read this interpretation.
  • When interpretation authority is not sufficient, Secretary Foxx further encouraged manufacturers to submit requests for use of the agency’s exemption authority to allow the deployment of fully autonomous vehicles. Exemption authority allows NHTSA to enable the deployment of up to 2,500 vehicles for up to two years if the agency determines that an exemption would ease development of new safety features.
  • DOT and NHTSA will develop the new tools necessary for this new era of vehicle safety and mobility, and will consider seeking new authorities when they are necessary to ensure that fully autonomous vehicles, including those designed without a human driver in mind, are deployable in large numbers when they are demonstrated to provide an equivalent or higher level of safety than is now available.

On Wednesday, January 20th, President Obama will make his first-ever appearance at the Detroit Auto Show. Check back with TechRepublic for coverage.