This Tuesday, the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transport had a hearing with executives from General Motors (GM), Google, Lyft, Delphi, and Duke University to discuss the matter of integrating self-driving vehicles into society.
“Something very real and fundamental is shifting here,” said Joseph Okpaku, vice president of government relations for Lyft. “Concepts that could once only be imagined in science fiction are on the verge of becoming a reality.”
An issue raised at the hearing was how the government officials who are based far away from Research and Development Centre in Detroit and Silicon Valley are going to efficiently regulate the transport industry that is moving forward rapidly with new technological advances. This also raises concerns about cybersecurity, privacy, legal liability, safety and so on.
Self-driving cars to create new jobs
Autonomous cars are expected to create new jobs, improve transportation efficiency, and reduce traffic congestion. Some states like California are already working on testing and integrating self-driving cars. But businesses have warned that obsolete rules and a “growing patchwork” of regulations may hinder progress and innovation, thereby pushing the US back in terms of competing with the rest of the world.
Chris Urmson, director of self-driving cars at Google X said, “America is currently in very much a leadership position. Not a day goes by where a company in China isn’t trying to recruit engineers from our team.”
The lawmakers (mostly Democratic) highlighted issues regarding cybersecurity and privacy, but Urmson’s reply was “the best action is to take no action.”
Sen. Ed Markey, on the other hand, argued for a practical method.
“Witnesses sat here 30 years ago and said the same thing about seat belts and air bags,” Markey said. “We need minimal standards.”
According to Apple and Google, fully self-driving cars could hit the streets in a few years, even though other calculations predicted this technology to become mainstream after decades.
Shared transportation services have already become immensely popular in fast-growing cities. The rise of services such as Uber, Lyft, and Zipcar makes it seem like personal car ownership will eventually become obsolete. But these companies have had their fair share of struggle against outdated laws – usually at odds with the taxi industry, or having to deal with background check methods or pay rates for their drivers.