We all know what happened on March 18th, 2018 when an driverless Uber car ran into a pedestrian, walking her bike across the street in Phoenix, Arizona. Governor Doug Doucey pulled Uber’s driverless program out of the city. They are now bringing the Uber ATG (Advanced Technology Group) program to Pittsburg over the summer.
To top that off, Telsa’s autonomous driving assistance, “Autopilot” has been found to have been in control during several accidents in the past year. This has not only resulted in lawsuit from Model S and Model X buyers, but it’s caused a level of scrutiny in autonomous driving industry. This raises the question:
What will be happen to the driverless car industry?
Many states are cracking down on regulatory laws for autonomous vehicle testing including Arizona and California with Pennsylvania following suit shortly. These states have historically been the most lax when it comes to driverless car testing. For a long time Metro Phoenix has been of three places people can hail a ride in a self-driving Volvo from Uber – the others being Pittsburgh and San Francisco. However, after the debacle with Uber, Phoenix has decided to cut ties with Uber in the city for the time being. On top of this, many states are continually increasing regulatory laws for testing on public roads. In 2017 alone, 33 states introduced new legislation which is a 160% increase from the previous year.
As far as federal regulations go, the US Department or Transportation explicitly mentions that they are committed to partnering with state and local government as well as stake holders to help regulate the autonomous driving industry. The issue right now is the matter of regulating all potential scenarios.
As autonomous driving increasingly becomes a larger part of life in the city, this becomes a more complex task. The big AV (Autonomous Vehicle) players know that restrictions are only going to get tighter as time goes by. Producers like Waymo, Uber, Telsa, GM, and the other industry titans are continually raising eyebrows.
For this reason Senator John Thune (Republican Representative of South Dakota) introduced the AV Start Act which would allow producers to block states from adopting safety regulations more stringent than the federal standard. Doing this would help expand the overall testing of autonomous vehicles regardless of location and create more overall competition in the industry. The bill has already been approved by the Senate Commerce Committee and the Trump administration is behind it, however it has raised questions among other committees in the senate and has been stuck pending approval.
Recently a group of individuals representing pedestrians, bicyclists, law enforcement, and even environmentalists wrote a letter to the house majority and minority leaders to increase regulations to offset the bill. This includes standards such as a minimum AV performance standard on each vehicle, lessening the minimum number of vehicles that are exempt from safety standards and more. This has has congress stalling on approval to ensure maximum efficiency of the bill.
What This Means For The Industry
Aside from the fact that car producer giants are racing for the leg up on the industry, the U.S. Department of Transportation has also mentioned that it is “ensuring that our country remains a leader in automated vehicle technology”. While a few public figure heads are saying that the technology will never become fully adopted, most Americans actually believe that the change is inevitable according to Pew Research Center.
Self driving car producers have a lot to worry about including regulation, insurance, liability and even ethical conduct in the event of a “sure crash scenario”. The problem is that many car makers are trying to achieve 100% reliability, but this may prove to be impossible.
What consumers want
According to Staford Law “Some ninety percent of motor vehicle crashes are caused at least in part by human error”. Still more than half of all Americans are reluctant to use a driverless car. The irony is that most consumers will pay more for ADAS (Advanced driver-assistance systems) which are autonomous driving features which will take control of the car during human error.
While it may take years for the first mainstream public use, testing will not stop an time soon. Industry experts give it five to ten years for any producer to start selling fully driverless cars to the public. In the meantime, anything could happen.