Skip to main content

Obama administration proposes $4B spend to tackle legal barriers to rapid rollout of self-driving cars


When Tesla’s Elon Musk tweeted that he expected to the company’s cars to be able to drive themselves across the U.S. from coast to coast within two years, my response was that I might believe the tech could hit that deadline, but not the law. It seems I may be wrong.

The WSJ reports that the Obama administration wants to invest $3.9B in crafting rules and policies to facilitate the rapid rollout of self-driving cars. This would take place at the federal level, ensuring consistent national laws rather than a patchwork of state-by-state regulations …

It’s not just a matter of permitting autonomous cars to use the road, there’s also the question of who is responsible if something goes wrong. At present, the driver would be liable in law even if they were effectively a passenger at the time. Companies like Google and Volvo have stated that they would want to be held responsible, but that would require big changes in the law.

The proposal requires congressional approval, so it’s far from a done deal, but it’s certainly encouraging to see at least the possibility of the U.S. government playing its part in bringing the tech to our roads sooner rather than later.

FTC: We use income earning auto affiliate links. More.

Stay up to date with the latest content by subscribing to Electrek on Google News. You’re reading Electrek— experts who break news about Tesla, electric vehicles, and green energy, day after day. Be sure to check out our homepage for all the latest news, and follow Electrek on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to stay in the loop. Don’t know where to start? Check out our YouTube channel for the latest reviews.


  1. Nick - 7 years ago

    Great news, this would help bring the tech to the roads much sooner. I’m surprised companies are so willing to accept responsibility for any accidents though. Maybe a strategy to show how confident they are in the tech so it gets adopted quicker?

    • Ben Lovejoy - 7 years ago

      Yes, there’s going to be huge consumer concern about safety, so this type of offer will be enormously reassuring if it is backed up in law.

    • Piet Strydom - 7 years ago

      Google has had very little problems with their vehicles so far. And the number of incidents keep on decreasing.

  2. Sunpwrd - 7 years ago

    The Feds need to tackle the right for Tesla to show, sell and repair their cars in every state as they see fit and abolish the protectionist laws lobbied by dealerships NADA.

  3. driverbenji - 7 years ago

    If only they would put this kind of effort into getting BEVs mainstream, which is what we need…autonomy is going to take years to develop, but the tech for all new car designs to be forced to be BEVs is here now.