Since it’s clear that Google and auto-giants like Audi, Volvo, and Nissan are serious about bringing a self-driving car to market, authorities will have to create new legislation. They have to adjust existing traffic laws, and enact new ones, to ensure that occupants of autonomous cars are safe, and that they don’t pose a threat to the safety of others.
Legislators in California, Nevada and Florida have begun proposing regulation for self-driving cars, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is conducting a study to develop recommendations for state laws.
In addition to the study, which will be conducted over a four-year period, the NHTSA has issued a set of guidelines for states to take into consideration when dealing with autonomous cars. They recommended that drivers obtain a special driver’s licenses, or add an autonomous car endorsement to their current licenses, before they can operate a self-driving vehicle. As a part of this, operators will have to complete a training program administered by the DMV to learn how to take control of a vehicle in case something goes wrong.
To help with regulation, the NHTSA has created five classifications for self-driving cars, that range from Level 0 to Level 4. The “Level 0” designation will be given to vehicles where the driver is fully responsible for the car’s functions, and the computer-controlled system will only be activated in case of emergency. On the other end of the spectrum, a “Level 4” vehicle is completely autonomous, and does not require any driver control.
Testing Robot Cars
The NHTSA also recommends that states should only allow self-driving cars on public roads for testing purposes. This allowance has already been authorized in four states. As a result, Google has logged over 500,000 road-test miles without an incident. This supports the argument for the safety of person-less transportation.
Hit the Road
Though the government is proposing rules and regulations for self-driving cars, these vehicles are far from becoming commonplace. This is partly due to the high cost of the technology that these cars require; which include laser radars, cameras, and sensors.
However, it’s only a matter of time before these vehicles hit the road. Afterall, the technology is already here. And when these robots finally hit the dealerships, they will surely change the way we travel.
Some analysts predict that by 2040, 75% of all vehicles will be fully autonomous. If this is true, there will be far fewer drivers in the future, at least in the conventional sense. Instead of sitting in the driver’s seat, with their eyes on the road, people will be able to relax, and let a computer take the wheel.
The implications of this invention are still largely unknown. In the future, driver’s licenses may even become completely obsolete, but this is a scenario that we are still miles away from.