- September 27th, 2016
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Things are a little different today than when I first moved into the White House. Back then, my watch told me the time. Today, it reminds me to exercise. In my first year, I couldn’t take pictures with my phone. Last year, I posted on Instagram from Alaska.
Of course, American innovation is driving bigger changes, too: 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.
Right now, too many people die on our roads – 35,200 last year alone – with 94 percent 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.
Safer, more accessible driving. Less congested, less polluted roads. That’s what harnessing technology for good can look like. But we have to get it right. Americans deserve to know they’ll be safe today even as we develop and deploy the technologies of tomorrow.
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.
We’re also giving guidance to states on how to wisely regulate these new technologies, so that when a self-driving car crosses from Ohio into Pennsylvania, its passengers can be confident that other vehicles will be just as responsibly deployed and just as safe.
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.
There are always those who argue that government should stay out of free enterprise entirely, but I think most Americans would agree we still need rules to keep our air and water clean, and our food and medicine safe. That’s the general principle here. What’s more, the quickest way to slam the brakes on innovation is for the public to lose confidence in the safety of new technologies.
Both government and industry have a responsibility to make sure that doesn’t happen. And make no mistake: 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.
Even as we focus on the safety of automated vehicles, we know that this technology, as with any new technology, has the potential to create new jobs and render other jobs obsolete. So it’s critical that we also provide new resources and job training to prepare every American for the good-paying jobs of tomorrow.
We’re determined to help the private sector get this technology right from the start. Because technology isn’t just about the latest gadget or app – it’s about making people’s lives better. That’s going to be the focus of the first-ever White House Frontiers Conference on Oct. 13. And what better place to hold it than Pittsburgh – a city that has harnessed innovation to redefine itself as a center for technology, health care and education.
We’ll explore the future of innovation in America and around the world, focusing on building our capacity in science, technology and innovation, as well as the new technologies, challenges and goals that will shape the next century.
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. That’s the spirit that has propelled us forward since before the automobile was invented. Now it’s up to us to keep driving toward a better future for everyone.
Barack Obama is president of the United States.