A tour of Mobileye, the Israeli tech company that powers much of the US autonomous car projects

This doesn’t meant that the US government isn’t thinking about this stuff. Secretary Foxx was at CES yesterday to discuss plans for his Smart City Challenge, which is looking for a mid-size American city where the USDOT can model innovative new transportation tech ideas. The winning city will have all its buses fitted with driver-assistance systems from Mobileye, the same company powering many autonomous vehicles, which Foxx himself praised during a trip to the company’s research facility in Jerusalem. This could lead the way to bigger autonomous public transit-focused solutions like self-driving buses (which are already puttering around American cities) and smart map technology.


But here’s a perfectly acceptable way for a self-driving car policy to fit into what the government is already doing. Driver-assistance systems like the ones Foxx wants to put on city buses are explicitly designed to save pedestrian lives, and really, they’re a step away from buses being completely autonomous. When so many local transportation departments have adopted Vision Zero initiatives to reduce traffic deaths, developing the safety features of self-driving tech dovetails nicely into these existing goals. Just like Volvo’s safety-focused partnership with the Sweden government, it actually makes a lot of sense to launch a similar program with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Most of the challenges outlined by the USDOT in their 30-year projections could be helped with self-driving cars

Last year, USDOT released a scathing report named “Beyond Traffic” that outlined just how much help the country’s transportation system needs in the next few decades. Besides that fact that much of our current infrastructure is in trouble, the American population is urbanizing, requiring cities to beef up their transit systems and find more efficient ways to get goods into denser neighborhoods. We’re also getting older, which means more Americans will no longer be able to get behind the wheel.


And yet—driverless technology can help address pretty much all of these issues. Including the part where we don’t have to spend $305 billion to repair roads for a human-driving future, and can prepare cities to become places with fewer cars. If the USDOT had a solid plan in place for autonomy, some of the money from the big transportation infrastructure bill that’s meant to prepare the country for the future could have been spent funding that program.

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GIF by Andrew Liszewski