President Barack Obama Pens Article On Autonomous Cars


Prototype Of A Future Autonomous Car, Image Credit: Rinspeed

Prototype Of A Future Autonomous Car, Image Credit: Rinspeed

President Barack Obama has officially given the go ahead on autonomous cars. However, he stresses the importance of safety and government involvement.

President Of The United States, Barack Obama

President Of The United States, Barack Obama

In an article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Obama explains how far technology has come since he has been in office, and how autonomous cars can change our lives. He goes on to give much credit to the innovations at hand, and assures that the government will assist in keeping us safe, while not getting too involved. Obama explains:

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 … That’s why my administration is rolling out new rules of the road for automated vehicles – guidance that the manufacturers developing self-driving cars should follow to keep us safe. And we’re asking them to sign a 15-point safety checklist showing not just the government, but every interested American, how they’re doing it … Regulation can go too far. Government sometimes gets it wrong when it comes to rapidly changing technologies. That’s why this new policy is flexible and designed to evolve with new advances.

Obama reminds us that 32,500 people died in auto crashes just last year. Almost all were a result of human error. He also explains that the elderly and disabled could benefit greatly from autonomous vehicles. Obama writes:

“The progress we’ve seen in automated vehicles over the past several years shows what our country is capable of when our engineers and entrepreneurs, our scientists and our students – backed by federal and private investment – pour their best work and brightest ideas toward a big, bold goal.”

The National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) will monitor the safety of the new technology. The White House explained in a release:

In particular, it [NHTSA’s authority] emphasizes that semi-automated driving systems – ones in which the human continues to monitor the driving environment and perform some of the driving task – that fail to adequately account for the possibility that a distracted or inattentive driver-occupant might fail to retake control of the vehicle in a safety-critical situation may be defined as an unreasonable risk to safety and subject to recall.

The NHTSA has adopted a new Federal Automated Vehicles Policy. More information, along with the full policy is available here.

On October 13, the White House Frontiers Conference will be held in Pittsburgh. It will be the first-ever conference of its kind. Obama explains that it is important specifically because we are not talking about “the latest gadget or app”, but instead about bettering people’s lives. The conference will explore and discuss the newest innovations in technology.

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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87 Comments on "President Barack Obama Pens Article On Autonomous Cars"

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Cue Faux News smear piece on how Obama is trying to kill drivers.

Ha! You can bet if Obama came out on the opposite side of this issue with federal regulation banning or severely limiting this technology the headlines would be all about Obama and big government regulation killing innovation.

Absolutely. It’s called propaganda.

I hope that someday the right leaning party in the US will realize that the new politics of hating the other person or party, then deciding how to form the message regardless of actual viewpoint is failing. It is creating a toxic environment for us to find real truth and knowledge.

right now, it appears that president obama is taking a measured approach toward regulation. that’s sensible, so little is known about how autonomous vehicles would actually work in the field that you really can’t do sensible regulation right now.

No plenty is known about how an autonomous vehicle will do in the real world. Vehicle manufacturers have been testing different systems and software for at least the last 30 years. Tesla alone has data on over 140 million miles of driving. Let alone all the other Universities and business working in this field. Saying we don’t know enough to do it yet would raise the counter argument of then why are so many people making it happen. If they truly needed more data the companies would be very foolish to let these systems out into the world. We currently have Mercedes Benz, BMW, Tesla, Infiniti’s, I believe Lexus, and I’m sure many other Auto makers with systems out now.

If only Obama where as knowledgeable in Foreign Policy as he is Federal Automated Vehicles Policy. . .


Don’t worry sven Trump your buddy will mandate coal power cars and swords would be carry freely as guns, so you”ll be happy living in the Middle Ages all over again. Don’t forget to vote you may still win troll.

I’m sure Vladimir Putin, Bashar al-Assad, ISIS, Kim Jong-il, China, and especially the Iranian Mullahs and the Revolutionary Guard all tried and failed to lobby Congress for a constitutional amendment allowing Obama to run for a third term. At least it’s been a great run for them and their regimes these past eight years. Eight years ago, who would have thought that these despots and oppressive regimes would be the main beneficiaries of Obama’s vision of Hope and Change. 🙁

It’s probably useless to point this out, but most of the people you listed aren’t doing particularly well at the moment.

ISIS enjoyed an eight-year run where they acted with impunity and ruling large parts of the middle east and northern Africa, ruling large parts. They also managed to export their terror to Europe and the U.S. in the form of numerous attacks. – the power vacuum Obama created and ignored with the troop withdrawal from Iraq gave rise to ISIS and their reign of terror. In short, Iran’s economy is booming thanks to Obama. Iran was on the brink of collapse after decades of sanctions for their nuclear program. Obama lifted the crippling sanctions and gave Iran more concessions than they dreamed of with little to show in return: – after ten years Iran can restart their nuclear program with no restrictions, – Iran can now sell crude oil on the open market to finance their regime – received billions of dollars in frozen assets after the sanctions were lifted – received close to $2 Billion when Obama set a precedent and for the first time ever the U.S. paid ransom money for hostages, – a flood of companies and foreign government representatives converged on Iran to do business deals, increase trade, invest in Iran’s economy including it’s oil and… Read more »

Your post reads like a typical “Thanks Obama” rant. You even said those words in your post LOL.

You know Bush signed a SOFA in 2008 when we would pull out Iraq.

(crap.. got sucked into… political posts.. arghhh)

when the name “obama” is entered into any discussion, the fox news crowd can’t help but see it as an invitation to political discussion. president obama sits in a chevrolet volt? that makes the volt political!

Weird . . . I thought the President was the President of the United States, not the baby-sitter for every other nation on the planet.

Trump? I didn’t think you were that stupid.

Who said I support or even like Trump, or even Hillary for that matter. My comment was solely about Obama’s foreign policy, or lack of it, for the past eight years.

Take it elsewhere, this is not the forum for politics.

I think it is relevant to EV. If Trump wins the election, then history will repeat itsself.

Remember what happend when Bush won the election in 2001….
EV1s were repossesed in 2002 and then crushed.

Ring a bell?

His other unhinged posts certainly make more sense now.

Yes, now I know where Sven is coming from and all his unhinged posts make sense. Sven is living in fear with a gun under his pillow.

Yeah thanks to the idiots like Bush, Chaney and stupid voters like sven.


you’ve got someone more knowledgeable in mind? i didn’t think so…that’s the problem with fox news: they’re all complaints and crazy allegations with no actual solutions to anything.

Well, sven, whoever wrote the hard-right talking points which you’re parroting has a very short memory. The presidential administration before Obama’s, the Bush Jr. administration, managed to turn the U.S. from the most respected and admired country in the world, into the most hated; turning allies into neutrals and turning neutrals into enemies. Frankly, I thought the best that Obama and his team would be able to do would be to begin the long, slow process of repairing our international reputation. Instead he’s done far better than I expected, including signing a historic peace treaty with Iran which puts a halt to their development of nuclear weapons for at least 10 years. The extremist position you’re parroting about that is exactly and precisely what reactionary war hawks said about nuclear arms limitation treaties with the Soviet Union. How did those work out, hmmmm? I think even an extremist like you would agree that those worked very well for the world. At least some the other talking points you parrot show an equal ignorance of recent history. The danger of North Korea has been growing for decades, under both Republican and Democrat administrations alike. Blaming Obama for that is pretty clueless.… Read more »

Its pretty obvious that sven is becoming unhinged as Trump blows up sven’s political party and as Tesla continues to rapidly grow into becoming the dominant maker of BEVs.

Sven, Obama is coming for your guns and ammo LOL…I’m lying, I’m lying, really lying BELIEVE ME.

Uh-oh! We about to get political

Yaaaayyy. Next we should talk about everyone’s relationship with Jesus. 🙁

You know, there is a far richer tapestry of human mythology / superstition than just that one guy…

What car would Jesus drive? Donkey 2.0, with lane keeping and parking assist from you know who!


“…the possibility that a distracted or inattentive driver-occupant might fail to retake control of the vehicle in a safety-critical situation may be defined as an unreasonable risk to safety and subject to recall.”

That’s an interested subject for discussion and debate. Just how should partially self-driving cars go about ensuring that the human driver takes over if there is a “safety-critical” situation?

And just how can the car actually know if the driver is paying attention? I’ve read about systems which actually scan a pilot or driver’s eyeball with a laser, to see which way he’s looking. Is it reasonable to think that sort of system can be put into a mass produced car, or is that too expensive?

Yeah, that is the meat of the above, IMO.

The “construction zone” test, when you’ve been on AutoPilot for a hundred+ miles and have to take over as you’re hurdled into a 10.5 foot Jersey barrier lane, at 65mph. Tesla’s AP isn’t at the point where it does anything in this scenario, and its the “take-over” place where brains have to go from inattentive, to hyper-attentive without anxiety. There probably already have been a number of “I freaked out” accidents, where people failed to appreciate braking and the need to mentally climb back into a pilot’s role. We’re mostly hearing about the ones where AP remained engaged.

Of course the flip side of that is that woman earlier today that yanked her minivan over into my lane from a dead stop from behind another car sitting waiting to turn left.

It was on an overpass that is being rebuilt so I had a barrier wall to my right and couldn’t do anything but slam my breaks narrowly missing rear ending her.

I laid on the horn and as I was passing her after she pulled back into the left lane she was staring down at her phone the entire time creeping along and didn’t even notice me.

Please give her an autonomous car. I don’t care if it’s not perfect 100% of the time. It’s got to be better than 99% of the drivers out there

The proof will be in the data (and I think the data will side with auto-pilot).

After X,000,000 miles, AP cars had Y,000 accidents, compared to human drivers who had Z,000 accidents.

“It’s got to be better than 99% of the drivers out there”

-on a Bad day-
and I’d hope we can all agree a very good driver has been known to have a Bad Day (most drivers think they are Excellent drivers).

-I- would appreciate the luxury of letting the car take the duties on that occasion.

Dunno if this point might make the naysayers ease up or not.

Yet when anyone tries to broach this subject for discussion and debate in the comment section of a Tesla Autopilot crash news story, you invariably always accuse them of being a Tesla short seller, FUDster, paid shill, troll, etc. Why no name calling and baseless accusations when the White House says it? Double standard? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

We’re just being politically correct. It’s considered rude to label someone a lonely pathological cynic. 😉

sven sputtered:

“…you invariably always accuse them of being a Tesla short seller, FUDster, paid shill, troll, etc.”

Gosh yes, everyone can see from this very comment thread that I always accuse anyone making any negative comment about Tesla of being a short-selling FUDster. /sarcasm

Or maybe, just maybe, I reserve such accusations for those few — fortunately very few — who, like you, actually deserve it.

There’s a wide difference between having an honest negative opinion, and posting outright FUD, sven. Let’s remember that FUD is a form of disinformation… of saying things you know are not true.

Perhaps you have lost sight of that very important difference, sven, but *I* certainly have not.

–.. crickets ..–

Sven, be very afraid of gay-black-Mexican-Muslims they are scary threat.

Paid political advertisement.
Strong man Trump for America

How did “take action” become “pay attention”?

Unfortunately, it’s not that funny. There have been any number on studies, and when humans have no actions in a given context (the road) to take for any period of time, they stop paying attention to it, and start paying attention and taking action in another (cell phone etc.)

Step 2: Auto companies lobby government to give them immunity from autonomous vehicle errors leading to severe bodily injury and death.

Step 3: Government will offer “Prayers” for the deceased, as autonomy fans chant Latin for the greater good.

Step 4. Due to significantly less accidents, insurance rates competitively decrease.


Step 5. Due to reduced accidents paint shops and repair companies will go bankrupt,less new cars will be needed, less high cost medical care for the injured will be needed, people will lose their jobs and there will be an uproar demanding back the failure prone human drivers…

Step 6.

Can I choose Buddhist Prayer Wheels, instead?

Autonomous cars as a service will totally work and be totally affordable as long as they force everyone to have a subscription ……

We currently pay a subscription to drive our cars, it’s called insurance. Autonomy will likely reduce that subscription if it proves to reduce accidents so it’s likely that you will pay a premium when manually taking over.

Pretty sure you missed the subtle joke there….

lol, you got his Goat. 😛

Elder people can drive longer and enjoy their lifes longer with the possibility of autonomous driving. And society inevitably will get older…

I think it’s a good thing. And good for carmakers too; people can keep using/buying cars longer.

Your gub’ment is setting a goal of zero injuries/fatalities.

Q. How do you suppose they’ll do that?
A. They will mandate humans out of the driver’s seat.

“The rapid introduction of self-driving cars and other advanced technologies makes it possible to achieve the zero deaths goal, the department said in a statement. Fully autonomous vehicles hold the potential to ELIMINATE HUMAN error, which is a factor in 94 percent of crashes, according to the department.”

US government sets goal of zero traffic deaths in 30 years

Human-driven cars won’t disappear completely. They’ll just become obsolete. In 100 years they’ll be a quaint historical artifact like a Model T.

” They’ll just become obsolete. In 100 years….”

It would appear that you and the Secretary of Transportation ‘think differently about safety’.

Who do you think has more power?

The Secretary of Transportation stating a goal of zero traffic accidents 30 years is going to have about as much effect as King Canute ordering the tide to stop coming in*.

Even well-developed, full autonomy won’t stop 100% of traffic accidents. Hopefully it will eventually reduce them by, say, 90-95%. But the only way to end all deaths due to auto accidents would be to reduce the top speed to that of bumper cars.

*Pedantic note: In the story, King Canute wasn’t actually so vain or megalomanic that he actually thought he could stop the tide by so ordering. In fact, he was demonstrating his humility by pointing out to his flattering courtiers that he did not have divine powers.

I really hate the fact that when I get on a train or airplane, I don’t get to control any aspect of the vehicle. Instead, I’m stuck sitting comfortably in the back… relaxing. It’s horrible I tell you.

Then why haven’t you sold your car and converted over to uber/lyft?

Too expensive, especially with surge pricing. And the range is limited.

Autonomous “riding” will have the same issues. You will not own an autonomous car. It will be ride sharing, .. just like Uber/Lyft, . but without the driver.

Ford has already made this clear

People own their own ‘autonomous’ cars now, though the technology is still limited. I don’t see why ownership rules would change. Tesla has even talked about loaning your personal car out for the day to collect some money from those who don’t own cars. And if we reach the level where we have ubiquitous autonomous cars, then pricing/range won’t be issues anymore.

Tesla has indicated individual ownership.

Ford CEO Mark Fields has flat out said these are not for individual ownership. I’d bet dollars to donuts that GM, Nissan and the rest follow Ford’s lead in this regard.

Why? Money and liability. But mostly money.

Market will dictate. If everyone is buying Teslas because GM,Ford, Nissan, etc are no longer selling vehicles to the general public, I don’t see that situation lasting. (actually it would never happen in the first place.

So you don’t believe what I’m saying about Ford?

Let us say, rather, that we don’t believe Ford will forever follow the policy that Ford CEO Mark Fields currently says they will.

As Kdawg already noted, they’ll change their policy quickly indeed if they start losing market share to companies which do sell self-driving cars!

I’m saying if Ford every takes themself out of the market, us consumers will have other options besides Ford.

AP-lite is already being sold today.

Both models are likely to exist.

It’s easy to see a non ownership model (autonomous taxi) in an urban area so you don’t have to pay for parking or double miles to send it back home.

And equally easy to see an ownership model in suburban areas where lower density favors instant availability of your own vehicle.

And also a rental model for the same reasons we have rental cars today.

carcus said:

“Autonomous ‘riding’ will have the same issues. You will not own an autonomous car. It will be ride sharing, .. just like Uber/Lyft, . but without the driver.”

I really don’t understand why people keep saying this. It defies logic and common sense.

People won’t give up the convenience of having a car at their disposal whenever they need it. Replacing the taxi driver with a computer won’t suddenly put a taxi within a short distance of your location whenever you need it, nor will it make it any more practical to get along without a car if you live anywhere other than dense urban areas where taxi service is already ubiquitous.

In fact, arguably self-driving cars will put more cars on the road, rather than less. People who now cannot drive, because they’re too elderly or have vision problems or just never learned to drive, or whatever, will have the opportunity to own and use a car once they become fully autonomous.


This will come in phases. Drive your POV down into “inner city zone 1” without the proper equipment and you will get a ticket.

Do it too many times and they will revoke your license.

Will also make it VERY easy for the gubmnt to shut us down if needed. No flash crowds, etc….

“This is a government action. All mobility services have been disabled. Stay where you are”

I think the construction zone problem is relatively easy. Before a single cone is placed, the company uploads a simple map to a common database, where all the manufacturers can put out an OTA update to any vehicle that approaches that area.

My big questions relate to snowstorms, thunderstorms, and the like. Will they just have to pull over. I guess that’s the safe thing to do, but I can confidently drive through snow and in Minnesota, I wouldn’t want a significant portion of my winter trips delayed.

That’s an interesting idea. Some local scanners to get the detailed data. But you still have edge cases where there’s an accident, or a traffic cop. Get to coding coders! 🙂

As I recall, a Google engineer said that snow was the one weather condition which their self-driving cars can’t deal with at all.

It will be interesting to see how that problem is eventually solved. Will we have to put in some sort of radar/lidar reflecting markers at the edge of every traffic lane, every 50-100 feet or so, as we now paint dotted lines in between traffic lanes on multi-lane highways? Or will the scanners of autonomous cars be improved to the point that they can actually “see” the road under a blanket of snow?

The snow plows use *sticks* on the sides of the roads.

I don’t know about sensor looking through snow, as there are so many flavors. Fresh fallen powder, to crunchy ice, to sloppy slush. Or all 3!

If the database could be trusted, and was detailed enough, the car could just use that information. Otherwise we are going to have to add some other kind of external device that provides the road information. If it doesn’t require power, and is passive, that would be a bonus.. but no technology (other than sticks) is coming to mind. Maybe after some more coffee.

Nice step in the right direction for autonomous cars. I think being as safe as a human driver is a pretty low bar, especially in big cities where aggressive driving is so common. Autonomous cars won’t cut anyone off, roll down and curse at another driver, spit on them (just saw this last week), or shoot them dead (happened two weeks ago here in Phoenix).

I love the idea that I’ll one day be able to eschew car ownership all together and just call a car when I need one. It’s silly to take up 500s.f. of space in my house to give shade and shelter to something I use so little.

I believe Musk said they would have to 10x safer than humans before he considered it out of beta.

“In particular, it [NHTSA’s authority] emphasizes that semi-automated driving systems – ones in which the human continues to monitor the driving environment and perform some of the driving task – that fail to adequately account for the possibility that a distracted or inattentive driver-occupant might fail to retake control of the vehicle in a safety-critical situation may be defined as an unreasonable risk to safety and subject to recall.”

This would likely kill Tesla.

So Obama is signaling his willingness to stab Tesla in the heart, with his own pen.

And now we know why Ford so boldly proclaimed they will skip right to autonomy level 5, there will be no threat from a lesser technology.

carcus said:

“This would likely kill Tesla.”

Hmmm, I don’t see that at all. If Tesla had to shut down all the advanced “driver assist” features on its cars, that would certainly give it a black eye in the public relations department, but I can’t see that people would stop buying Tesla cars. After all, they bought them before any such advanced features were introduced.

What would hurt Tesla’s bottom line is having to refund the money that people spent to buy or enable Autopilot features. But again, I don’t see that this would be such a severe expense that it would “kill Tesla”.

Autonomous cars – great for little old ladies and worker drones on their daily commute. I’ll stick to my manual ICE.

Yeh boy politics.
I hate both sides equally!

Why can’t someone meld the best parts of each party into one party.

REEEally small party

I’m proud to say I voted for President Obama 2 times.

Ditto. If only we had a congress that would have cooperated, we could have got even more done in the past 8 years.