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

Lauren Isaac is the Director of Business Initiatives for the North American operation of EasyMile. Easymile provides electric, driverless shuttles that are designed to cover short distances in multi-use environments. Prior to working at EasyMile, Lauren worked at WSP where she was involved in various projects involving advanced technologies that can improve mobility in cities. Lauren wrote a guide titled “Driving Towards Driverless: A Guide for Government Agencies” regarding how local and regional governments should respond to autonomous vehicles in the short, medium, and long term. In addition, Lauren maintains the blog, “Driving Towards Driverless”, and has presented on this topic at more than 75 industry conferences. She recently did a TEDx Talk, and has been published in Forbes and the Chicago Tribune among other publications.
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