With companies racing to place their autonomous automated smart vehicles on the U.S. market from 2019, this funding program aims to assess the impact, including the feasibility, safety and potential job losses, these technologies will bring about for commercial autonomous vehicles.
In a significant development, a U.S. spending bill includes a $100 million for a “vehicle research and development” in order to create highly automated vehicles; the program includes funding for assessing the impact of self-driving cars on the regular human driven taxi job market.
The program includes grants of up to $60 million “to fund demonstration projects that test the feasibility and safety” of self-driving vehicles, said the spending agreement.
Under the terms of the agreement, funding for automated vehicle proving grounds, will be provided to local governments or academic institutions but not to private companies.
The funding also includes $38 million for U.S. agencies to conduct research into self-driving cars and their cyber-security issues.
The U.S. Transportation Department is “expected to prioritize research topics that fill gaps in research being conducted by the private sector” and “have the strongest potential to advance the safe deployment” of advanced vehicles.
The U.S. Congress has also allocated funds, up to $1.5 million, to comprehensively study the impact of self-driving vehicles on U.S. employment, including the potential pace of job losses among truck, taxi and other commercial drivers, as well as the potential safety risks surrounding commercial autonomous vehicles.
Companies including Alphabet Inc’s self-driving car Waymo unit, Tesla Inc, General Motors Co, Ford Motor Co, and other are aggressively pursuing automated vehicle technologies.
In January 2018, GM had petitioned the U.S. government to allow it to commercially launch a fully autonomous car, without a brake, accelerator pedal or steering wheel, in 2019.