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The federal government is planning for a future without human drivers behind the wheel

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We have to get it right. Americans deserve to know they'll be safe today even as we develop and deploy the technologies of tomorrow.
President Obama, in Pittsburgh Post-Gazette op-ed

The driverless car revolution has mostly been left up to U.S. states to regulate -- until now.

The U.S. Department of Transportation is expected to release new regulations Tuesday that will shape how driverless cars are made and used. A preview of those regulations was released Monday night.

Big shift in safety standards

The key argument is that since a computer, not a driver, controls the car, the federal government should take charge. Driverless car makers will be expected to report data to the government.

This could represent a big shift in how safety standards work. Generally, car makers self-report their adherence to standards, but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration may request "pre-market approval."

That would let them intervene before a new driverless car hits the road. But it may also require Congressional approval.

Right now we have multiple states.... each setting up their own rules. This could be a nightmare, if you drive across a state border.
Raj Rakumar, Carnegie Mellon professor

A unified federal standard for driverless cars could make interstate travel in a driverless car much less complicated. 

What do critics think? 

Industry experts were divided on the plan. 

"In terms of just attitude, this is huge," said Bryant Walker Smith, a law professor at the University of South Carolina. The fact that the government was even considering this plan showed it had truly embraced driverless cars, he said.

But other consumer advocates fear bureaucracy and regulations will only delay innovations.  NHTSA administrator Mark Rosekind said he wants the regulations to be as flexible as possible.

Pittsburgh self driving.jpg
A group of self driving Uber vehicles position themselves to take journalists on rides during a media preview at Uber's Advanced Technologies Center in Pittsburgh, Monday, Sept. 12, 2016. Starting Wednesday morning, Sept. 14, 2016 dozens of self-driving Ford Fusions will pick up riders who opted into a test program with Uber. While the vehicles are loaded with features that allow them to navigate on their own, an Uber engineer will sit in the driver’s seat and seize control if things go awry. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Pittsburgh drew attention last week as it tested self-driving Ubers. The cars have someone in the driver's seat in case of emergencies, but otherwise pilot themselves.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Who should be in charge of regulating self-driving cars?

George HW Bush will reportedly vote for Hillary Clinton

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