US Transportation Secretary Foxx talks autonomous cars in Silicon Valley

The Department of Transportation accelerates on the road to autonomy with a proposal to require vehicle to vehicle to vehicle communications in future cars.

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Antuan Goodwin/CNET

MOUNTAIN VIEW -- At a briefing today at Delphi Labs in Silicon Valley, Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx discussed the DOT's plans to expedite rulemaking that would make eventually make vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication a requirement in future cars, autonomous or otherwise.

Today's announcement builds on the Beyond Traffic 2045 framework proposed by Foxx earlier this year at a talk with Google's Eric Schmidt.

The DOT's plans will consist of fast-laning NHTSA's proposal to require V2V equipment on all new vehicles. The proposal was originally planned to hit the Office of Management and Budget in 2016, but Foxx states that the proposal will arrive earlier at the end of this year.

Secretary Foxx also states that the DOT is working closely with the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) on expedited testing the 5.9GHz spectrum reserved for V2V and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communications with an emphasis on figuring out if that spectrum can be safely shared with unlicensed users. The DOT states that it'll have these preliminary test plans in place within a year following the arrival of production-ready devices from automakers.

"The Department wants to speed the nation toward an era when vehicle safety isn't just about surviving crashes; it's about avoiding them," Foxx said. "Connected, automated vehicles that can sense the environment around them and communicate with other vehicles and with infrastructure have the potential to revolutionize road safety and save thousands of lives."

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Secretary Foxx's discussion took place at Delphi Labs in Silicon Valley, where autonomous car technologies are being developed and tested. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

The Department of Transportation will be making an effort to reorganize its current regulatory framework to streamline the rulemaking process surround safety and autonomous technologies that will, according to Foxx, "lead to cars that can drive themselves better than a human can."

The V2V technologies discussed likely won't become requirements for years to come -- the proposal is called Beyond Traffic 2045 -- but many autonomous driving technologies are hitting the road today. Foxx spoke today while surrounded by Delphi's autonomous Audi Q5, which recently made a nearly 3,400 mile autonomous drive from San Francisco to New York, and a Tesla Model S, which will soon be available with a new Autopilot autonomous highway cruising mode. And last week, Freightliner's Inspiration became the first commercial truck to receive a full-license for autonomous testing on public roads in the Nevada.

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