It is my belief that #1, Industry wants self-driving cars, #2, the U.S. Government wants self-driving cars, and #3 America will see self-driving cars become an everyday way of life much sooner than we think.
Case in point, the “Self Drive Act,” which has just passed with a bipartisan unanimous vote today in the U.S. House Of Representatives. The basic gist of the bill—and you can read it here—is to make it as easy as possible for driverless vehicles to be adopted on the roads, keeping state “interference” to a minimum.
Per The Hill:
The bill would pre-empt states from implementing certain laws governing the new technology. It would also allow car manufacturers to deploy up to 100,000 self-driving cars a year that don’t meet normal safety standards.
It also sets up, in a way, the basic bureaucratic infrastructure necessary to get autonomous vehicles ready for the mainstream.
This bill has been contextualized by House members as being about “vehicle safety”—not so much about safety issues regarding the self-driving cars themselves, but the idea of these cars being safe alternatives to “dangerous” human-driving cars.
Said Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.), top Commerce Committee Democrat, on the House floor before the vote:
Self-driving cars have the potential in the future to reduce deaths and injuries from car crashes, particularly those that result from driver distraction. This bill allows for testing and deployment of self-driving cars to help the United States reach that potential sooner.
And the Hill article itself, quoting a non-sourced statistic that “self-driving cars could reduce traffic fatalities by up to 90 percent,” also says:
Lawmakers and industry advocates say it is necessary to speed up the development of driverless technology in order to improve traffic safety.
Now, this may all be true; that eventually, after everything has been tested and tweaked, self-driving cars may be virtually “error-free,” resulting in less traffic fatalities. But that’s not going to happen when we still have the factor of human error in the equation. Which is to say: we will only have those low-to-no vehicular accidents when there are no human drivers left on the roads. I’m not a technological genius, but that’s what seems logical to me.
But how is deploying thousands of cars that don’t meet normal safety standards going to help? How does limiting the ability of states to regulate these standards going to help? Why even include these things in the bill if these vehicles are so safe?
As I say at the end of all these posts I do—I am not a Luddite. I am not calling for a “stop” to self-driving technology. I think the adoption of self-driving technology is inevitable. But I think the American public is poorly informed/educated on this topic, and that the “future shock” that will ensue when so many of them (like truck drivers) start losing their jobs en masse—or even eventually are “forced” to trade in their regular vehicles for self-driving models—is going to be immense.
A Senate version of the “Self Drive Act” is being worked on right now; and next week the Senate Commerce Committee will hold hearings on self-driving trucks.