The Big Challenges In Regulating Self-Driving Cars

By Daniel Araya, Contributor

via Forbes, January 29, 2019

Over the next decade, “self-driving” as a feature of transportation will become as commonplace as cruise control. Forecasts suggest that by 2050, the autonomous vehicle (AV) industry could be worth a staggering $7 trillion. To put this in perspective, that’s almost twice the size of Germany’s entire economy. Like any new technology, self-driving cars represent a significant new opportunity. But they also pose significant new risks.  Before AVs can become ubiquitous, they will first need to be regulated. And regulating self-driving cars remains a complicated challenge.

Going Mainstream

The truth is that self-driving cars are not as radical as they might seem. AV technology builds on many existing innovations impacting related industries including factory production (machine automation), telecommunications (information technology), aircraft control systems (autopilot) and terrestrial navigation (GPS). In fact, there is a counter-intuitive analogy that makes driverless cars less inexplicable. Long before the arrival of self-driving cars, there was the elevator. Elevators transformed how humans physically move through buildings, eventually eliminating the need for human operators altogether.

Like elevators, AV technology will completely transform urban mobility. The expectation is that AVs will provide needed relief to overloaded transportation systems with driverless vehicles freeing more than 250 million hours of commuting time each year. Driverless vehicles will help smooth traffic flow and reduce congestion by automating transportation across ever-advancing telecommunications networks. But even as the capabilities of AVs continue to evolve, it’s not a given that consumers will choose to buy them. What is more likely is that the on-demand nature of driverless cars will reshape the transportation industry altogether.

The End of Car Ownership?

There are 3.7 billion people living in cities today with that number set to double by 2050. Assuming on-demand transportation companies like Lyft and Uber are the future, then personal car ownership could eventually become a thing of the past. Given the global rise in urban living, we can safely assume that alternatives to traditional car ownership will become the norm.

One key challenge for AV legislation is the issue of ownership. The current legal assumption is that AVs will be purchased and owned by customers. But what is more likely is that AVs will simply accelerate the shift to transportation-as-a-service. The fact is that the number of 16 to 44-year olds obtaining a driver’s license in the United States has been steadily declining since 1983. Indeed, the number of people getting driver’s licenses has been decreasing across every age group.

See original article in Forbes here.