In just a few years, self-driving robotaxis will share the road with human drivers. While humans routinely drive 10 to 15 miles per hour above the speed limit, these self-driving cars will be programmed to drive at the speed limit and abide all traffic rules. As a result, safety and consumer advocates are urging lawmakers to dramatically expand the testing of these vehicles.
According to the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, automakers should be obligated to guarantee the safety of driverless vehicles before they are tested on roadways.
Lawmakers in the House of Congress are debating the first federal legislations geared toward driverless cars while counterparts in the Senate are working out their own demands to guide approval for these autonomous vehicles. Companies such as Apple, Inc. and Ford Motor Co. are racing to develop the technology that would make roads safer.
The Metrics of Human Behavior
Despite driverless vehicles being likely to carry cargo or passengers in limited areas over the upcoming three to five years, experts say it will take decades before robotaxis can safely share the roads with human-piloted cars because programmers need to understand human behavior and local traffic characteristics.
Last year, highway fatalities in the United States exceeded more than 40,000, and highway injuries exceeded two million. Driverless cars are predicted to put a major dent in these figures.
Congress is in the process of considering a bill that would enable the expansion of on-road testing for driverless vehicles, which manufacturers want to prove the safety of these cars. The federal measures would also prohibit states from enacting different regulations overseeing the safety and performance of autonomous trucks and cars.
This comes at a time when auto manufacturers are racing to outpace tech companies to commercialize driverless cars. Ford Motor Co. plans on putting driverless vehicles on the road in less than five years, while General Motors has recently invested $500 million in Lyft, Inc., Apple recently announced that the company is leasing a small fleet of cars with self-driving technology.
Despite these numbers, automakers are still capped at 2,500 vehicles annually by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. They are now asking congress to dramatically expand the number of driverless vehicles they can deploy.
Are Driverless Cars Safer?
Driverless cars are designed to have a superhuman-like ability to recognize the world around them by using sensors to gather data about their surrounding environment. These sensors include lasers, radar, cameras, and ultrasonic sensors, while GPS and mapping technologies are also used. They are also expected to obey all traffic laws, including the speed limit.
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