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For self-driving cars, the free ride is over

Photo illustration of an autonomous vehicle.
Illustration by Cath Virginia / The Verge | Photo from Getty Images

For years, autonomous vehicles have operated in relative obscurity. With few vehicles on the road and a laissez-faire attitude among government regulators, automakers and big tech firms have been free to test — and even commercially deploy — with little oversight.

Well, those days are done. In rapid succession, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has opened investigations into almost all the major companies testing autonomous vehicles as well as those that offer advanced driver-assist systems in their production cars. Tesla, Ford, Waymo, Cruise, and Zoox are all being probed for alleged safety lapses, with the agency examining hundreds of crashes, some of which have been fatal.

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