Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao shows the latest finding from the department on automated driving. (Photo credit: Brendan Strong)

The Trump Administration will not be in the business of “picking winners and losers” when it comes to automotive technology, particularly automated or self-driving systems, Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao told a crowd in Detroit.

During a visit to the North American International Auto Show’s AutoMobiliD exposition, Chao repeatedly said the department’s top priority was safety. However, she was also just as clear about how much her agency would be involved in the process.

“We are not going to be top down,” she said. “We’re not going to be command and control. We are tech neutral and the technological advances we see are very exciting. Our preeminence as a nation, as far as technology, is something we should strive to preserve.”

That said, she also said the Trump Administration didn’t want a “patchwork of systems” and that would be up to the tech companies and state and local governments to help ensure there was uniformity in these areas.

(More automakers adding lifesaving braking equipment. Click Here for the story.)

The former Labor Department secretary said that her new department would only provide the guidelines for safety and collect feedback about the various autonomous vehicle systems and other technologies under development in the auto industry.

In fact, the she noted the DOT is hosting a “listening session” about the topic called Automated Driving Systems 2.0:  A Vision for Safety, aimed to collecting the feedback and other information about driver safety and the perceptions of the public about self-driving vehicles.

That said, she said the agency was also closely monitoring the potential impact these vehicles will have on the economy and, specifically, jobs. “In the long term, new technology means new jobs, but the transition will be difficult.”

(Click Here to see Trump’s guidelines on autonomous testing.)

She also noted it will be difficult for automakers and tech companies to get consumes on board with driverless vehicles. Citing a AAA study noting that 78% of people would not ride in a driverless car, Chao said the industry had a long way to go before that technology would be accepted by consumers.

“I’ve been out to Silicon Valley. I’ve been out to talk with various manufacturers,” she said. “Consumer acceptance will be the constraint to their growth.

“So it will be incumbent upon these manufacturers and these high tech companies to share their enthusiasm and their confidence in this new technology because unless they do so, the consumers will not accept it and it will not be a success so it is to their own self interest, and I urge them to do so, to educate the public about their confidence and their belief in this new technology.”

(House passes bill easing autonomous vehicle testing restrictions. For the story, Click Here.)

Does Chao think the government should play a role in helping companies secure that public acceptance? “Oh, I do of course. Our role is that of safety. And so there is the bill of autonomous vehicles going through the Congress and we’re working with the Congress on that.”

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