Regulators Pushing to Stay Ahead of Self-Driving Technology

Automated vehicles have been around for a while, specifically in industrial and manufacturing settings. In fact, the worldwide AGV market is forecast to be worth $2.3 billion by the end of 2024. But automated, or self-driving, vehicles have only just begun to hit the roads commercially, and regulators are scrambling to keep up.

In the ever-growing movement to get self-driving technology on the roads, lawmakers are getting left in the dust. As self-driving technology advances, new regulations and laws that conflict on a state-by-state basis have lawmakers concerned about hold-ups to vehicle development. As a result, some people are calling for federal action.

“If you had 50 different requirements for 50 different states, each state [might do it] different,” said Chan Lieu, an adviser to the Self-Driving Coalition for Safer Streets.

IHS Automotive analyst Stephanie Brinley told USA Today that more conflict is arising in light of demands for federal action.

“It could be messier, and it could take longer than we want it to,” Brinley said. “We will see some state-by-state and some federal fights happening.”

The biggest issue in this case is a purely political one. While every self-driving car regulation is focused on safety, not every lawmaker is on the same page. While federal action may be inevitable, states and even cities are arguing that they have a key role to play in the development of this technology. And a federal regulation could take them out of the equation.

Self-driving cars are already changing the roads, but the development of this technology has the potential to change countless other things about the way society functions. Personal car ownership, urban development, and insurance business would just be a few factors that would change. Not to mention the roads themselves. Traffic marking paint, worth an estimated $454 million in 2014, may become more or less important depending on autonomous vehicles’ spatial recognition capabilities.

In an effort to predict some of these changes and keep up with the rapidly-developing technology, upwards of 50 bills have been proposed in 20 states in the last few months. In addition to bills that would make it easier for automated vehicles to officially hit the roads, lawmakers are looking into legislation regarding cyber security and potential data sharing issues.

Bills are coming out almost as fast as new technology is unveiled, which has sent lawmakers spinning in an attempt to keep up. But until this technology reaches its true potential, the race between autonomous vehicles and the law will rage on.

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