Weekly analysis, news and randomness from the future of transportation.
Yesterday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee unanimously approved what could soon become the first federal legislation overseeing autonomous vehicles.
The bill, called the Self Drive Act, would exempt automakers' self-driving vehicles from federal safety standards and allow the vehicles to be tested on public roads. Companies would be allowed exemptions on 25,000 vehicles in the first year, 50,000 in year two and 100,000 in years three and four.
Of course, there is no guarantee the House will vote on the bill, which will sit at least until after the August recess and may come up for a vote in September.
But today's vote moves the idea of federal legislation closer to reality. Companies investing in self-driving tech have pushed for such legislation, arguing that if the federal government doesn't set rules and guidelines, the states will fill the void with a patchwork of competing regulations that will slow innovation and testing.
And makers of self-driving vehicles need testing time on public roads if the technology is to become safe enough for consumers.
If this legislation becomes law, it will mean many more self-driving beta tests happening in public. Technophobes may point to accidents involving self-driving cars (which are almost a certainty, because life happens) and say these vehicles are too unsafe to share the roads with those driven by humans.
But skeptics familiar with the technology say self-driving cars right now are about as safe as an average teen driver. Which is not great, (teen drivers are the least safe drivers on the road) but the technology will only get better as it matures.
It's going to take a long time for the public to trust self-driving cars. But that shouldn't stop us from allowing companies to move ahead with the technology. Eventually, self-driving vehicles will be much safer than those driven by humans. It will take time and testing to reach that goal, and the ability to keep accidents in perspective when they happen.
— Sharon Silke Carty