Autonomous cars will mean less traffic, more efficiency, and improved safety, right? We think so, yes. But will they also increase national security? It may sound like a stretch, but that's exactly what one group of business and military leaders is saying.

The group is called Energy Security Leadership Council, part of Securing America's Future Energy (SAFE), and there are some heavies behind it, Automotive Newsreports. FedEx CEO Frederick Smith and retired Marine Corp. Gen. James Conway are pushing for policies in which national vehicle regulations would not only speed up the passing of laws that would allow autonomous vehicles on US roads but also ensure that those regulations trump state laws. The reason is clear, since SAFE says it is, a non-partisan, action-oriented organization committed to combating the economic and national security threats posed by America's dependence on oil.

The larger picture is that oil powers about 92 percent of the US transportation sector. SAFE says more autonomous vehicles would help cut that total to 50 percent by 2040. Additionally, with the federal government's $7,500 tax credit limited to the first 200,000 electric vehicles sold per OEM, SAFE is looking to remove that cap to further cut oil dependancy.

A handful of US states, including California, Florida, Michigan, and Nevada, have laws that allow for testing of autonomous vehicles on their roads. Those states have been central to a debate over whether a person operating the vehicle in autonomous mode should require a valid driver's license, as many say that requirement defeats the purpose of the self-driving concept.

US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx in January said that the federal government would spend about $3.9 billion over the next decade to fund pilot programs involving connected autonomous vehicle systems in certain corridors throughout the country. Foxx said at the time that DOT officials would spend the first half the year working with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on the establishment of best practices for so-called "Level 4" self-driving vehicles.


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