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September 20, 2016

PennDOT encouraged by new federal guidelines for self-driving cars

Pennsylvania has played an important role in the development of autonomous vehicles and new federal recommendations released Tuesday will not alter the state's ongoing efforts.

The National Highway Safety Administration unveiled a 112-page policy, which outlines safety features for manufacturers and regulation tools for state governments.

In June, PennDOT established the Autonomous Vehicles Testing Policy Task Force to help craft legislation to address the emerging technology.

State officials indicated that the federal guidelines correlate to the task force's recommendations.

"My administration has kept Pennsylvania on a pace that makes us and especially the City of Pittsburgh a global center for automated vehicle safety, testing and development," Governor Tom Wolf said.

Last week, Uber deployed its first self-driving vehicle fleet in Pittsburgh. The federal guidance will not have impact on that testing, PennDOT said.

"We want to assure that technology companies and auto manufacturers have the ability to test the technology in Pennsylvania, but we will not compromise safety, and we are working toward state-level policies to ensure that is the case," PennDOT Secretary Leslie S. Richards.

This fall, the task force is scheduled to submit policy recommendations to Richards. State lawmakers will also implement policies that will govern automated vehicle testing around that time.

Once legislation is enacted, automotive and technology companies can proceed to more advance testing.

State officials are hopeful that self-driving vehicles will reduce the number of fatalities on the roads. In Pennsylvania, 1,200 people were killed in traffic crashes last year.