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Speed up on self-driving cars

Published:Sunday | November 29, 2015 | 11:00 AM
People exit Daimler’s Freightliner Inspiration self-driving truck after a demonstration in May in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA.
This May 13, 2014 file photo shows a row of Google self-driving Lexus cars at a Google event outside the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California.
The dashboard of Daimler's Freightliner Inspiration self-driving truck.
The two-seater prototype of Google's self-driving car i at Google in Mountain View, California, on May 13, 2015.
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LOS ANGELES (AP)

Federal transportation officials are rethinking their position on self-driving cars, with an eye towards getting the emerging technology into the public's hands.

Just two years ago the US Department of Transportation struck a cautious tone. Its official policy statement, published in May 2013, says cars should be limited to testing and not "authorised for use by members of the public for general driving purposes."

With the technology's rapid development, that Federal policy is being updated, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said last week.

"I want the posture of our agency to be obviously vigilant on the safety front, but I don't want our agency to be skittish about innovations that are out there," Foxx said.

It's unclear what the new policy will be, but Foxx clearly signalled that the technology intrigues him. He told reporters that he hoped the update overseen by his department's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) would be ready in "weeks, not months."

For several years Google and a handful of automakers, including Tesla Motors, Nissan and Honda, have been testing prototypes equipped with a suite of sensors and cameras on public streets and highways, mostly in California.

Those cars must have someone behind the wheel, ready to take over. Some have got into

collisions, though in each case the companies say a person in another car caused the accident.

Google has advocated getting self-driving cars