The answer to The Cars’ classic question is likely soon to be “No-one — and that’s okay.” My colleagues Sam Kazman and Marc Scribner were lucky enough to take a ride in Google’s prototype driverless car today, and they welcome our new robot chauffeurs. Here’s Marc’s post on the subject at Openmarket, and his answers to a few obvious questions:
Another major benefit would be improved air quality, as the intensity of urban air pollution is directly tied to congested road conditions. Cars could potentially be made lighter thanks to reduced crash risk, improving fuel economy and reducing pollution output per vehicle mile traveled.
Right now, the biggest hurdles are not on the production side. Rather, it is government policy. Laws will need to be updated to reflect (and permit) this new reality. Nevada has taken the lead by explicitly legalizing driverless cars and becoming the first state to issue an autonomous license. Several other states are currently considering similar legislation.
But what of liability issues? Google does not seem to concerned, and after giving it some thought, neither am I. We already have event data recorders in new automobiles that can be used in civil/criminal court cases to determine who or what is at fault — human or automotive system. Upgrading a car’s “black box” technology to accurately record what fails when it fails is not a huge undertaking.
I wonder how much money MADD and the like will put into promoting this technology and lobbying for the sort of changes Marc suggests. If the answer is “none,” then we’ll know they’re more neo-prohibitionists than safety advocates.