It may take some getting used to—but it looks like a better way to travel. What do you think?


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Are Self-Driving Cars Legal?

Driverless cars are taking strides in development through rigorous investment and technological advancement

Conceptual Adoption

  • In 2017, more than $80 billion was invested in self-driving vehicles
  • By 2020, there will be an estimated 10 million cars with self-driving features on the roads
  • Development of driverless technology is being carried out by both established and startup companies
    • Alphabet
      • The Waymo fully self-driving car is now being tested on public roads without anyone in the driver’s seat
      • Waymo has logged over 5 million miles on roads since 2009
    • Tesla
      • All Tesla vehicles are built to be fully electric with self-driving capabilities
      • 325,000 Model 3 vehicles were reserved in the first week – $14 billion in implied future sales
      • 100,000 units were reportedly delivered in 2017, the largest fulfillment year for Tesla
    • Aurora
      • Startup working on a full stack technology for autonomous vehicles
        • Data services
        • Software
        • Sensors
      • Partnered with car manufacturers such as Volkswagen and Hyundai
    • The new smart cars
      • Deep learning programs are key in driverless technology development
        • Algorithm-based pattern recognition
          • Neural network programs loosely structured based off the brain
        • Helps recognize and respond to things on the road such as
          • Pedestrian
          • Traffic signs
          • Other vehicles
        • Leading software and programming companies are getting involved
          • Intel – Acquired Mobileye, a computer vision company, and is working with Waymo to provide sensor and connectivity technology
          • IBM – Watson A.I. is being adapted for automotive assistance with cognitive computing
          • Nvidia – Xavier processors are designed as the neural networks for future driverless vehicles

As certain industries gear up to go driverless, lawmakers and regulators are taking measures to address and define the new technology

What exactly is self-driving according to the law?

  • Driverless cars are computerized vehicles guided without human interaction in different degrees of automation
  • According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
    • Level 0: No Automation
      • Driver controls all the functions of the car
    • Level 1: Driver Assistance
      • Vehicle has driving assist design elements (e.g. cruise control)
      • Driver always controls the vehicle
    • Level 2: Partial Automation
      • Combined automation features (e.g. steering and acceleration)
      • Driver must be engaged and attentive at all times
    • Level 3: Conditional Automation
      • Driver does not have to monitor the environment
      • Driver is still necessary and must be ready to assume control at all times given notice
    • Level 4: High Automation
      • Vehicle can perform all necessary functions in certain conditions
      • Driver control is optional
    • Level 5: Full Automation
      • Vehicle can perform all necessary functions in all conditions
      • Driver control is optional
    • 22 states have passed laws on automated driving, as of March 2018
      • States embracing driverless vehicles
        • Michigan
          • December 2016: Michigan governor signs the first set of state laws on the testing, road use, and market of autonomous vehicles
        • California
          • February 2018: State DMV changes regulations to allow driverless vehicle testing without a human in the driver’s seat

As with many emerging technologies, there is a reasonable amount of concern over the potential impacts of autonomous vehicles

Arguments For and Against Autonomous Vehicles

  • Many are still apprehensive about driverless vehicles
    • 64% of polled Americans are concerned about sharing public roads with autonomous vehicles
  • Safety Concerns
    • Bus was in a collision with a Google SUV in the driverless mode
      • First Google autonomous vehicle at fault in accident
      • Mountain View, California, February 14, 2016
    • Woman struck and killed by Uber driverless car
      • First pedestrian fatality involving an autonomous vehicle
      • Tempe, Arizona, March 19, 2018
      • Uber’s ‘Project Roadrunner’ was reportedly struggling to meet its 13 mile mark without human intervention
    • Commercial Adoption
      • Concern for labor markets that may feel an impact from driverless vehicles
        • 8 million U.S. motor vehicle operators
          • Predominantly high-school graduates, male, and older
            • Only 7.6% have at least a bachelor’s degree versus 33.4% of all occupations
            • 88% male, versus 52.7% of all occupations
            • Median age 46, versus 41 of all occupations
          • 5 million U.S. workers in occupations that could be affected by autonomous vehicles
        • The Teamsters labor union is demanding UPS ban autonomous vehicles for package delivery as a term in a 2018 contract renewal dispute
      • Safety Benefits
        • Proponents argue that fully self-driving cars will make people’s lives easier and safer
          • 94% of vehicle crashes are attributed to human error
            • According to KPMG, it’s estimated that 2,500 fewer deaths will occur in the UK by 2030 as a result of driverless vehicles
          • Increase the mobility of elderly and others with disabilities preventing their own use of automobiles

Driverless technology production is accelerating and the legal landscape is catching up to make autonomous vehicles a likely addition to the traffic of public roadways