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G7 to work together on self-driving safety standards?

Driverless car safety is an issue for all countries (Photo: iStock / Redrockschool)

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Driverless guidelines and standards on the agenda as G7 leaders meet in Japan - but did they agree?

At a time when driverless technology is moving fast, regulators are often left trying to catch up. Now, however, it seems the U.S. is trying to gain some ground. During a G7 meeting of transport ministers that took place in Japan in late September, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx presented a set of guidelines on regulating self-driving. According to Foxx, they are the most comprehensive guidelines to date.

After the meeting, he told the Associated Press that the recommendations were warmly received, with plans to now work together to maintain safety. "There was actually a very enthusiastic reception to the policy,'' he said. "We did a good job of inventorying what each country is doing and laying out areas that we want to explore further.''

Important to the U.S. is the continuation of real-life road tests, reports the Associated Press. Foxx stated that such trials are essential for the technology to be accepted, and for companies and regulators to understand its potential, writes Bloomberg. The U.S. is therefore permitting road trials by companies developing driverless technologies. The guidelines come as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is carrying out an investigation into a fatal Tesla Autopilot crash in May 2016.

"One of the things I think that autonomous vehicles suffer from is that they get compared to perfection, and not to the 94 percent of car crashes that are attributable to human factors. We have to make the right comparisons," Foxx told the Associated Press. He apparently declined to comment on the Tesla investigation.

Interestingly, across the Atlantic, a slightly different story emerged from the event. German Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt stated that: "The G7 summit in Karuizawa shows that Germany sets standards in mobility 4.0." Adding: "Our policy initiatives are a model for the international environment."

Outstanding issues for the G7 and driverless cars include cybersecurity, ethics and privacy, and wireless spectrum questions – it is therefore now a question of whether the ground that is gained here can be common.  

Read more from the Associated Press here and Bloomberg here. Find the German report on this story in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung here

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