Environmentalists are urging the Obama administration to use self-driving cars as vehicles for greening U.S. transportation. The Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, Environmental Law & Policy Center and Southern Environmental Law Center asked the Department of Transportation and U.S. EPA to “evaluate ways for autonomous vehicle fleets to accelerate the transition to zero emissions, electric-drive vehicles and allow for further integration of renewable electricity.” “While some autonomous vehicle pilot projects involve electric-drive vehicles, automakers will also deploy technologies to vehicles that rely on fossil fuels,” the groups wrote. “Exploring zero emission options for autonomous vehicles will help ensure that the technology reduces pollution.” The push for electrification of autonomous vehicles comes in a letter expressing concern that DOT has focused on the safety implications of driverless cars to the exclusion of considering other aspects of the technology. Under Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, DOT has been bullish about getting out in front of emerging autonomous-vehicle technology and has begun taking steps to determine how best to regulate it. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released an assessment in March of how current standards would consider autonomous vehicles, a move many consider a first step toward rulemaking (E&ENews PM, March 11).
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