President Donald Trump is an automated-vehicle skeptic, a point of view that lies in stark contrast with agencies within his own administration, including the U.S. Department of Transportation .
According to a recent scoop by Axios, Trump has privately said he thinks the autonomous-vehicle revolution is “crazy.” Trump’s point of view isn’t exactly surprising. His recent tweets about airplanes becoming too complex illustrates his Luddite leanings.
Airplanes are becoming far too complex to fly. Pilots are no longer needed, but rather computer scientists from MIT. I see it all the time in many products. Always seeking to go one unnecessary step further, when often old and simpler is far better. Split second decisions are….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 12, 2019
The interesting bit — beyond a recounting of Trump pantomiming self-driving cars veering out of control — is how his personal views compare to the DOT.
Just last week during SXSW in Austin, Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao announced the creation of the Non-Traditional and Emerging Transportation Technology (NETT) Council, an internal organization designed to resolve jurisdictional and regulatory gaps that may impede the deployment of new technology, such as tunneling, hyperloop, autonomous vehicles and other innovations.
“New technologies increasingly straddle more than one mode of transportation, so I’ve signed an order creating a new internal Department council to better coordinate the review of innovation that have multi-modal applications,” Chao said in a prepared statement at the time.
Meanwhile, other AV-related policies and legislation are in various stages of review.
The DOT’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced Friday that automated-vehicle petitions from Nuro and General Motors are advancing to the Federal Register for public review and comment.
The parallel viewpoints have yet to collide. There’s no evidence that Trump’s personal views on autonomous-vehicle technology has been inserted into DOT policy. Of course, that doesn’t mean it won’t.
AV companies are hip to this eventuality and are taking steps now to educate the masses — and Trump. Take the Partners for Automated Vehicle Education (PAVE) coalition, as one example. PAVE launched in January with a founding group that included a number of major automakers, technology companies and organizations with a stake in autonomous vehicles, including Audi, Aurora, Cruise, GM, Mobileye, Nvidia, Toyota, Waymo and Zoox to spread the word about advanced vehicle technologies and self-driving vehicles. Their message: This tech can transform transportation and make it safer and more sustainable.
Waymo has also teamed up with AAA on a public education campaign to spread the word about autonomous-vehicle technology and how it could impact safety and help people get around. The partnership, announced recently, is with AAA Northern California, Nevada & Utah (AAA NCNU), a regional organization that oversees operations in seven markets, including well-known hubs of autonomous vehicle development such as Arizona and California.