Secretary Chao optimistic about autonomous vehicle future

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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) -- Full speed ahead toward self-driving cars. The U.S. Department of Transportation is continuing its work with the private sector to get Americans integrated with driverless vehicles. But there is a bumpy road ahead for normalizing the technology.

Cathy Chase fears a lack of regulation will lead to unsafe conditions on our roads. (Source: Gray DC)

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao has a message for companies pushing them toward the mainstream.

“Consumer acceptance will be the constraint to your growth,” said Chao.

Because, Chao says, anxiety is widespread when it comes to the idea of handing the wheel over to no one. She sees potential as old school motor companies like General Motors and new-age tech companies like Waymo go pedal to the medal in fine-tuning their technologies.

“Both can learn from one another,” said Chao.

Chao says 94% of accidents occur because of human error. She thinks self-driving cars will help eliminate human error and ideally result in fewer deaths.

“If we can somehow have more safety features in our technology that will actually make driving safer,” said Chao.

Safety advocates want DoT to look more closely under the hood before more of these cars hit the streets.

“We’re concerned that the U.S. Department of Transportation is taking a hands-off approach,” said Cathy Chase, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.

Chase says she wants to see stricter guidelines and safety standards for these new technologies. She wants to see increased regulation from the department and from Congress before these cars are normalized.

“There needs to be a number of minimum performance standards so that we know that the car is going to react as it should,” said Chase.

According to DoT, more than 1,000 automated vehicles are estimated as actively testing in the U.S.