Au­ton­o­mous Test­ing in the USA

No mat­ter who ul­ti­mately reg­u­lates au­ton­o­mous tech­nol­ogy, self-driv­ing ve­hi­cles con­tinue to gal­lop ahead

Automobile - - Contents - By Doug New­comb

Whether you’re look­ing for­ward to or loathing the ad­vent of au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles, they’re here and are test­ing on pub­lic roads. But as ped­als and steer­ing wheels fall away, our state and fed­eral gov­ern­ments strug­gle with how best to reg­u­late the rapidly ap­proach­ing fu­ture.

WHEN AU­TO­MO­BILES FIRST ap­peared on pub­lic roads in the early 20th cen­tury, there were few reg­u­la­tions—and lots of crashes. The pow­ers that be had to de­ter­mine how to safely in­te­grate mo­tor ve­hi­cles with horses, trol­leys, and pedes­tri­ans shar­ing crowded city streets.

In the book The Law of Au­to­mo­biles, pub­lished in 1906, au­thor and at­tor­ney Xenophon P. Huddy helped pol­i­cy­mak­ers by defin­ing new con­cepts such as speed­ing and proper sig­nal­ing. A sec­tion ti­tled “Law Keeps Up with Im­prove­ment and Progress” de­scribed cars as “a new con­trivance for trans­porta­tion pur­poses,” and it sounds pre­scient when viewed against to­day’s quandary of how to reg­u­late self-driv­ing car tech­nol­ogy and as­sim­i­late robo-taxis into ex­ist­ing traf­fic.

Jump for­ward a cen­tury to when Google in 2010 re­vealed it had cov­ered more than 100,000 miles test­ing its early au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles (AVs) in Cal­i­for­nia, and there were no reg­u­la­tions against self-driv­ing cars on pub­lic roads. As with the ad­vent of cars decades ago, self-driv­ing ve­hi­cles are rolling onto road­ways as de­vel­op­ers test the tech­nol­ogy in the real world. In the process, they’re forc­ing a re­write of ex­ist­ing road rules meant to ap­ply to hu­mans be­hind the wheel, not ma­chines and com­puter code.


SOME­THING MISS­ING GM says it will make a car with­out a steer­ing wheel or ped­als by 2019.

PRE­PARE FOR A NEW FU­TURE The early days of the au­to­mo­bile saw horse and mo­tor car­riages co­habit de­spite sparse reg­u­la­tion. With the rise of self-driv­ing tech, it seems a sim­i­lar si­t­u­a­tion is upon us, and once more we’re tasked with re­vamp­ing the...

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