Autonomous vehicles, also known as self-driving cars, represent one of the highest levels of technological advancements in motoring matters. These are vehicles that guide themselves without human intervention. They have been evolving over the years and are now a reality, and they could mark the beginning of computers taking over the art of driving. Autonomous vehicles have many advantages, like cutting insurance premiums for vehicle owners, more efficient commuting—thus saving on fuel—and enabling people to concentrate on tasks other than driving. However, self-driving cars have also brought about several concerns regarding the safety of other road users, like drivers, bicyclists, motorcyclists, pedestrians, and so on. Also, the safety of the passengers in autonomous cars is a significant concern.
Safety: the critical issue in the NGA’s report
According to a new report on self-driving cars released by the National Governors Association’s Center for Best Practices, ensuring the safety of the driver and the pedestrian as well as the regulation of the relatively new and emerging technology are critical issues. The objective of the report is to guide state governors and other decision-makers on the successful implementation of the technology.
It is noteworthy that 30 states and the District of Columbia have thus far looked into the issue of autonomous vehicles at varying levels, which range from permitting vehicle testing to having in place various kinds of regulatory frameworks that try to find a middle ground between safety and flexibility.
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The challenges and opportunities associated with implementing autonomous vehicle technology Each state will have to deal with some safety opportunities and challenges as they seek to implement the technology of the self-driving car. The first challenge, as indicated by the report, will be to ensure the safety of all road users. The officials in charge of state public safety and transportation are charged with ensuring that all road users enjoy a safe experience on public roadways. Also, officials will have to think about how to integrate the new automated self-driving car technology and the existing modes of transport, while not compromising road safety. Test programs have shown that some challenges are arising from traditional road users as they share the road with fully autonomous vehicles, resulting in low-speed accidents.
Recommendations for the governors from the NGA report
The NGA report gives some guidance on the best way to implement the technology and suggests some practical steps for the governors to consider. The measures include:
- Appointing an agency to spearhead the deployment of the technology
- Coming up with a workgroup whose membership will be drawn from various agencies
- Working together with the concerned agencies at local and federal levels as well as policymakers
- Providing an environment that makes testing and deployment possible
- Maintaining supervision and regulatory authority for testing
- Coming up with an intense training program for those charged with implementation
- Liaising with law enforcement officials by making sure public safety is observed while in the process of testing and deployment
- Considering the possibility of partnerships between operators and regulators (public-private partnership)