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Trusting a Program with Lives – America’s Regulation of Self-Driving Cars

January 11, 2018 No Comments

Featured article by Kaya Johnson, Independent Technology Author

Self-driving cars on the US roads are not a distant future. Today, only partially automated cars are on sale, and most of the driving is still the driver’s responsibility. Nevertheless, according to some leading automakers, with the current rate of development and testing of self-driving cars, fully automated vehicles could be available for commercial use in less than 5 years.

However, as any issue concerning artificial intelligence and robotics, self-driving cars are causing quite a stir. The question of safety on the roads and the reliability of an AI-operated vehicle on the road have come up as soon as self-regulating cars became a tangible reality. Even though Americans welcome innovation, they are quite concerned about how safe these vehicles would be and how protected they will feel on the roads 5 years from now.

The public concern has aggravated because of a sudden and untimely death of Joshua Brown, owner of a 2015 Tesla car, who crashed into a lorry while driving in the autopilot mode. Even though the expertise showed that the driver should have been engaged and should have noticed the car himself (as no car is yet fully automated), this recent accident has shown that developing a truly safe autopilot car is a big challenge. The autopilot mode is not yet a 100% safety guarantee as the luck you get in a raging bull casino for instance, but the question is, can it ever be?

car 300x199 Trusting a Program with Lives – Americas Regulation of Self Driving Cars

Current state of self-regulating cars legislation

The state legislators have already taken action to ensure the development of self-driving cars is carried out according to safe procedures. In 2017, as many as 19 states, including California, New York, Florida, Colorado, Pennsylvania and Washington D.C., have passed the laws regarding self-driving car manufacturing and testing regulation. Moreover, some states’ governors have issued executive orders calling for responsible testing and manufacturing of AI-driven vehicles.

These attempts have been undertaken since 2011 in various states. Nevada authorized the first legislative act enabling self-driving car manufacturing in 2011. Technology develops constantly and with faster rates. At present, 33 states have posed legislative restrictions on automakers of self-driving cars. Each state reserves the right to regulate its road vehicle movement how they deem best, and for this reason, the severity of controls and restrictions differs from state to state. In California, for instance, the law puts significant restrictions on car manufacturers, subjecting them to many safety regulations like online pokies real money does.

At the same time, the other half of the states has not had any progress regarding this issue. Kansas, Nebraska, Ohio, Colorado, Wyoming and another 12 states have not adopted any measures to regulate self-driving cars in their state’s territory.

Automaker’s grudge on new legislation

It has been very difficult to find a balance between the car manufacturers’ interests and public safety concerns. On the one hand, the public is pushing state legislators to adopt more regulating measures. Fear and concern for cars that will drive the road by themselves are self-explanatory. We also know for a fact that people do not tolerate machine’s mistakes. We do have tolerance for human error, however, if a machine makes a mistake, the outrage is much stronger. So, if the question is not duly addressed now, in the future there may be a lot of public security issues. It is only natural that state authorities are trying to adopt legislation on car makers as soon as possible, encouraging responsible manufacturing and testing of such cars.

However, at the same time lawmakers do not want to halt progress. Many car manufacturers have already expressed their dissatisfaction with the current legislation. Leading carmakers in the US, like Toyota, Volvo and General Motors have appealed to Congress seeking relief from some legislative restrictions that they consider too much. The automakers say that such regulations halt innovation. Moreover, the restrictions are likely to result in additional production and testing costs for the manufacturers, because different states require different procedures. In Michigan, for example, the restrictions put by the law are far less severe than those in California. Thus, no manufacturer can have a single procedure for self-driving car manufacturing in all states. Congress will be considering the appeal of carmakers. Congressmen have stressed numerous times that it is very important to find a balance between innovation on the road and public safety concerns. At the same time, the issue of regulating road safety should be sorted out on a state level, with no single nation-wide regulation, so Congress will have to make emphasis on international standards and recommendations rather than regulatory measures.

These issues require further investigation by the government and state lawmakers. It is important to make the legislation flexible for carmakers who strive to make progress in the development of AI-driven machines. At the same time, little has been done by the state authorities to protect their citizens from unregulated self-driving cars that will soon appear in the streets. The commercial interests of car makers should be outweighed by legislative security measures, and the state lawmakers are the only ones that the people of America can turn to. Thus, a lot more action is required on their part to ensure the future road safety.

Kaya Johnson is a 39-year-old sales accountant from Yorkshire. Though not a professional writer it’s her hobby to put together articles from time to time. She lives alone and sometimes has free time to write a piece or two.

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