What’s the Government’s Role in Driverless Cars?

As I’ve attended more industry conferences, I’m realizing that government officials are interested in preparing for this disruptive technology, but they are not sure where to begin. I am hoping my research helps to answer that very question.

In previous blog posts, I’ve mentioned driverless car initiatives that various government entities around the world have undertaken. They range from partnerships with Google or automobile providers, initial testing legislation (at the state level), and even funding some testing. The role of government will (and must) expand over the next few years. In fact, I believe the government will need to focus on the following three areas:

  1. Establish and enforce regulations – This category receives the most media attention. It is focused on rule-setting around privacy/data sharing, security, licensing/testing, and safety/liability. This is probably the most complex area since it is all new territory.
  2. Establish and enforce standards – Similar to what the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS), the federal government will need to establish safety standards around the design, manufacturing, and data/communications of driverless vehicles. While complicated, I do believe the establishment of these standards will occur naturally through partnerships with the technology leaders and learnings from the connected vehicle initiatives.
  3. Conduct short- and long-range planning – Driverless cars will likely impact all aspects of our cities: congestion may increase or decrease, transit service will look very different, tax revenues will have significant impacts, parking needs will decrease, and roadway infrastructure will need to be adapted (to name a few). The government will need to plan ahead for these many changes.

This really gets at the heart of my research (especially #3). Blog readers – Is there anything missing?

About Lauren Isaac

I am the Manager of Transportation Sustainability at Parsons Brinckerhoff. Recently, I won the William Barclay Parsons fellowship for my research proposal to study how the United States government should respond to driverless cars. As I'm working on my research, I thought this blog would help to disseminate my findings and provide a forum for feedback.
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