04/22/2016

By Nassim Khalili, American Highway Users Alliance

Last month, the director of the Google self-driving car project and auto industry executives were featured in a Congressional Hearing on the future of autonomous vehicles. The participants emphasized that self-driving cars will improve mobility for America's seniors and persons with disabilities, while also reducing crashes and congestion.

According to Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers President Mitch Bainwol, "Given that more than 90 percent of crashes result from human mistakes, the combination of emerging driver-assist features, connectivity and ultimately autonomous vehicles offer the promise of safer mobility." Additionally, Sen. John Thune of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, acknowledged that driverless cars could help people travel independently, even if they are unable to operate a vehicle.

Though self-driving cars could offer seniors greater mobility alternatives that aren’t available to them today, these benefits can only be realized if federal and state authorities develop a consistent national regulation that helps autonomous vehicles adapt into the transportation network. Among the current policy needs, witnesses stated that the federal government should consider preemption of the myriad different state laws and regulations governing autonomous vehicles, so that developers have a consistent reasonable standard. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) will play an important role in coordinating this process. Cybersecurity and data privacy issues will also need to be tackled. Yet despite these considerations, great progress has been made, and there is much enthusiasm for technological innovations that will promote lifelong safe, independent mobility for all!