As the world moves closer towards having self-driving cars in every city, safety concerns regarding them are still growing. On Tuesday, General Motors and Toyota will appear before a government panel to discuss future regulations for this field.
Other manufacturers, such as Volvo, will reportedly make an appearance as well. They argue the current set of rules for autonomous vehicles stifles innovation and does not contemplate cars without a human driver, which is what most carmakers look to create.
Even though it seems like automakers are struggling, they might get their way after all. Today, two US senators pledged to introduce a bill that would make it easier for companies to deploy autonomous vehicles on public roads.
The automobile industry complaints about the regulations
Gill Pratt, from the Toyota Research Institute, stated the government should address “the handful of standards that are inconsistent with or incompatible with autonomous vehicle technology.“
He might be referring to the fact that current regulations still require any vehicle to have brakes and a steering wheel, something that points out to a potential driver. Most automakers agree that this is not their ultimate goal, but something entirely different.
The future self-driving automobile will not have these structures, in fact, it might not even have the same seat configuration users found in every vehicle. Most automakers agree that for them to come up with better designs, the rules of the game need to change.
“Without changes to those regulations,” says Michael Abelson, GM’s VP of Global Strategy, “it may be years before the promise of today’s technology can be realized, and thousands of preventable deaths that could have been avoided will happen.”
The current state of affairs
Last year, ride-hailing giant Uber conducted a self-driving experiment on the streets of San Francisco. Its endeavor was quickly shut down by the Californian DMV which, in part, begun to fuel the concerns of automakers.
Aside from this event, self-driving cars have had almost no bad press. A handful of accidents, nonetheless, need to be taken into consideration. Google had a couple in 2016, as well as Tesla. These occurrences spur real concerns with regards to safety, and lawmakers act accordingly.
There is hope, however, for the self-driving world. On the one hand, the FBI seems to be interested in supporting a new set of regulations.
Some argue the reason behind that is that automakers would share more information with the government if they were able to experiment freely with autonomous technologies.
Two senators might help turn things around
In a joint statement, Senators John Thune and Gary Peters announced that they were looking to pass legislation “to improve regulatory flexibility for testing and development of self-driving vehicles.”
The former is a Republican from San Diego, and the latter a Democrat from Michigan. This situation brings the event to both sides of the current political spectrum, which might mean more chances of it happening in the end.
For now, all the cards are on the table. Automakers hold the key to the future of self-driving vehicles, but so do politicians and lawmakers. In any case, the public’s safety comes first, more so than comfort. These two matters should be at the end of every question.