We’ve covered a bit of this recently, and with good reason. Accidents from self-driving cars have already happened, and unless this new technology is done right, our roads could be less safe than ever.
It seems the law is potentially falling behind on regulating fast advancing technology as no one really knows what laws still apply to autonomous driving. In the U.S., Elon Musk and Google’s autonomous cars are surpassing our norms and reportedly leaving law enforcement baffled on what is allowed on the roads and what isn’t.
It’s clear that car and technology companies need legislation to keep-up so that their new high tech cars can be built, sold and used on roads safely.
At the moment, there is uncertainty as to which laws apply and how they should be applied. The inconsistency across states and nations can also make it difficult for companies and investors to predict safe investment.
The CEO of Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, Mitch Bainwol, stated in a hearing that:
“…a patchwork of different requirements across states is a recipe for delayed deployment, and delayed realisation of the safety and mobility benefits of autonomy.”
If the law can’t keep up, the motor and tech industry may also be hindered in their development. Consumers are understandably anxious as to the safeguards afforded to them as drivers of autonomous cars, as are conventional vehicle drivers sharing the roads with self-driving cars.
Hearing in the U.S.
The technology is currently being piloted primarily in the U.S., but we know it’ll end up here. So this is all very relevant to road users here in the U.K.
The hearing was brought by the Senate Commerce Committee to discuss the position with autonomous vehicles and the legal liabilities that may be involved with its uses on the roads, including innovation of development and safety. At the moment, there are a total of 16 bills dedicated to self-driving cars in the U.S Congress. At State level, there are already a number of laws and regulations that govern self-driving cars, but there are concerns over its consistency across the nation. In 30 States, around 70 bills are thought to have been proposed though it is unlikely that these all suggest the same rules.
Powers in progress
States have certain powers when it comes to regulating autonomous cars. These can include testing, reporting, liability, insurance and how the cars should be driven. At the moment, Congress is battling over how much to restrict the production and use of autonomous cars at a National level to ensure consistency without hindering production and use too much.
In the U.K.
In the U.K, our governmental Department for Transport published a regulatory review and a Code of Practice two years ago for the testing of these cars. At the moment, four major cities have been approved for testing these cars, but the technology is still very new and legislation for use is yet to follow.
Currently there is a difficulty of balancing the production of new laws and the production of autonomous cars. Companies need to know what laws are in place so cars can be built to adhere to these laws. On the other hand, until the cars are built and used on the roads, lawmakers may not be sure of exactly how they will work and what laws are needed to ensure safe use.
Tesla and Google are fast approaching fully autonomous vehicles, but there are still a few bumps in the road that needs to be smoothed out.