Although President Donald Trump’s meetings with auto executives last week were focused on manufacturing in the US, several CEOs grasped the opportunity to discuss other topics relevant to the auto industry.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk reportedly pushed for a carbon tax, but was met with little to no support.
And Ford CEO Mark Fields told Business Insider that the topic of self-driving cars was discussed for “quite some time.”
“This is one where he [Trump] wanted to learn,” Fields said on the subject of self-driving cars. He said Trump was interested in learning more about the technology’s capabilities and potential economic benefits. Fields didn’t divulge whether Trump was leaning one way or another on regulating autonomous vehicles.
Fields said he is generally pleased with how “forward leaning” the federal government has been with self-driving cars.
In September, the government released self-driving-car guidelines requesting states to develop uniform policies dictating the release of self-driving cars on the road. The guidelines also included a 15-point safety assessment to help ensure self-driving cars meet certain standards for things like safety and consumer privacy.
Still, proponents of self-driving cars have argued for the government to release federal regulations dictating the use and release of autonomous vehicles rather than rely on a state-by-state approach. The Self-Driving Coalition for Safer Streets, which includes companies like Ford and Google, has pushed for a comprehensive suite of regulations.
Michigan became the first state to establish regulations for the testing, use, and eventual release of self-driving cars in December. Ford was one of several companies that helped shape the legislation. It was a huge win for the automaker, considering Ford’s hometown is in Dearborn, Michigan.
Ford arguably has more ambitious plans than other automakers as it looks to release a self-driving car without a steering wheel or pedals in a commercial setting in 2021.
Google’s self-driving unit was the only other venture that had been pursuing a steering-wheel-less car. However, when the unit recently became Waymo, an independent company under Alphabet, it decided to keep the driver controls.
Both Waymo and Ford are pursuing Level 4 autonomy, which means the car can completely drive itself without human oversight, however it may be limited geographically in terms of where it can drive.
“One of the reasons we’re not pursuing Level 3, which is a Tesla Autopilot-type, is we struggle with, ‘how do you make a responsible and timely handoff with the driver?'” Fields said.
“That’s why we think going to Level 4 is really important because it really pushes us to really think through how do we make sure this is safe, efficient, and acceptable for customers,” he said.