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Rewritten Safety Rules Will Open Floodgates for Fully Driverless Cars on Public Roads

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Current US safety laws state that vehicles must have a traditional control system, including a steering wheel, mirrors, and pedals if it is to be operated on a public road. However, a new plan released on Thursday shows that the Department of Transportation is ready to open public roads to the driverless car revolution.

Secretary Elaine L. Chao of the U.S. Department of Transportation says in an opening statement: “Automation has the potential to improve our quality of life and enhance the mobility and independence of millions of Americans, especially older Americans and people with disabilities.” She continues on about the benefits that autonomous transportation affords Americans, stating it “has the potential to impact safety significantly – by reducing crashes caused by human error, including crashes involving impaired or distracted drivers, and saving lives.”

Car crashes continue to be one of the biggest causes of fatalities in America. In 2017, 39,000 people died from car-related incidents alone, including nearly 6,000 pedestrians killed by motor vehicles.

A strong interest in developing this emerging frontier of autonomous transportation will open the door for companies like Waymo, General Motors, and Tesla, allowing for the implementation of thousands of driverless vehicles on public roads. Currently, there are nearly 75 auto safety standards that must be met by automakers when it comes to cars operated with human intervention. These standards have been the main obstacle in getting autonomous vehicles on public roads, along with significant skepticism surrounding the underlying technology.

Back in March, a self-driving Uber vehicle struck and killed a woman, igniting debate as to whether autonomous vehicles should be operating on public roads. Uber subsequently suspended testing of their driverless fleet, with many skeptics focusing on the fact that this technology is nowhere where it needs to be when it comes to safety.

Chao has commented on this skepticism, stating that: “the technology holds promise, it has not yet won public acceptance.” She continues, “Companies need to step up and address the public’s concerns about safety. Because without public acceptance, the full potential of these technologies may never be realized. Consumer acceptance will be the constraint to the growth of this technology.”

Going forward, autonomous vehicles are finally getting some downwind support from regulatory agencies that hold the power to make strides towards developing a safer and more effective use of this technology. Experts predict that by 2040, autonomous vehicles will comprise 95 % of all vehicles sold, totaling nearly 96.3 million cars. 

Avid writer and reader with a curious mind. I'm always looking to get the most out of life! Follow me on Twitter @whatsaschoon

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