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Engineers, safety advocates, and automakers say federal regulators eager to get self-driving cars on the road must slow down.

Fully self-driving cars may be the future of the automotive industry, but they aren’t yet up to the demands of real-world driving, several people told the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration during a public meeting Friday. Issuing new regulations take an average of eight years. The agency can’t wait because early self-driving technologies are already in cars on the road. For instance,Tesla’s “autopilot” function, enables its cars to automatically steer down the highway, change lanes and adjust speed in response to traffic.

A General Motors official recently told a Senate committee that the automaker expects to deploy self-driving cars within a few years through a partnership with the ride-sharing service Lyft. Google, a pioneer in the development of self-driving cars, is pushing Congress to give the NHTSA new powers to grant it special, expedited permission to sell cars without steering wheels or pedals.
Concerns addressed at the meeting:
  • Poorly marked pavement, including parking lots and driveways, could foil the technology, which relies on clear lane markings.
  • Bad weather can interfere with vehicle sensors.
  • Self-driving cars can’t take directions from a policeman.
  • Inconsistent traffic-control devices such as horizontal versus lateral traffic lights.
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