Driverless Vehicles, Legislative Affairs

Treating driverless vehicles just like any other – a recipe for disaster?

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We have been advocates of sharing the road with everyone, and now Colorado is getting ready to ask their drivers to share the road with cars that drive themselves, too.  The future of driverless cars is here today – have you seen the commercials for cars that can park themselves? In March, the Colorado State Senate passed a bill that would change state law to allow the use of an “automated driving system” — one that doesn’t need human control or supervision. Senate Bill 213 states “the vehicle’s system must be capable of complying with every state and federal law that is applicable to the vehicle and its use. Problem is, there are currently no federal laws or regulations governing driverless vehicles that companies seeking to test or use such cars or trucks could comply with in order to follow the proposed law in Colorado, although the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration has put out guidelines for states to use in setting policy.

There are currently more than 30 companies working on autonomous vehicle technologies, dedicating thousands of miles and thousands of hours in testing their driverless vehicles. But what about the average drivers in the U.S. – will the technology be widely accepted? Not according to a study at the University of Michigan built on a series of eight reports addressing public opinion, human factors, and safety-related issues concerning self-driving vehicles. The study, sponsored by UM’s Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI), found that nearly 46% percent of those surveyed want no vehicle automation at all, while 39% percent favor partial automation. Only about 15% percent want fully driverless vehicles. Many cited the lack of control as a problematic issue.

What about trucks? In a similar report, researchers found that nearly 95 percent of U.S. motorists responding to their survey had some level of concern sharing the roads with autonomous trucks and trailers. According to the Teamsters, the labor union known as the champion of freight drivers, letting driverless vehicles, especially trucks, hit the highways is a recipe for disaster.

The last thing those traveling U.S. thoroughfares need are out-of-control trucks that jeopardize the lives of others.

Roadways are already a hazard for motorists. “As it stands, the nation’s roadways can be a dangerous place for motorists,” stated in a Teamster article on a poll showing worries about a driverless future on our highways and byways. While technology progresses, there must be a balance between the application of the next big development in our everyday lives and sound public policy that ensures the public good.

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