ENDORSEMENT FROM THE US PRESIDENT: US president Barack Obama has voiced his support for self-driving vehicles. Image: AFP / Jim Watson
Washington - President Barack Obama gave an enthusiastic endorsement to self-driving vehicles that, when safe, could prove "transformative," in an opinion piece published on Monday.
Obama wrote in The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: "Right now, too many people die on our roads - 35 200 last year alone - with 94% of those the result of human error or choice.
"Automated vehicles have the potential to save tens of thousands of lives each year. And right now, for too many senior citizens and Americans with disabilities, driving isn't an option. Automated vehicles could change their lives," he stressed.
Following Uber's driverless taxis
Obama's endorsement of the technological shift came the same day the United States unveiled a sweeping new regulatory framework for the unexpectedly rapid onset of self-driving automobile technology, just days after Uber broke ground with its first driverless taxis.
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US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said the federal government intends to set the safety standards for cars of the future where no human is involved in the driving, even while individual states still regulate cars with humans behind the wheel.
Announcing a 15-point safety assessment for driverless car systems, Foxx stressed that the government wants to work with developers - which include most large automakers as well as tech giants like Uber and Alphabet (Google) - without stifling their efforts.
Obama underscored in his op-ed piece that the government's role ensuring safety is key.
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Obama continued: "If a self-driving car isn't safe, we have the authority to pull it off the road. We won't hesitate to protect the American public's safety.
"But in the seven-and-a-half years of my presidency, self-driving cars have gone from sci-fi fantasy to an emerging reality with the potential to transform the way we live."