6 Challenges Facing Self-Driving Cars in Cities

June 29, 2016

6:00 pm

Regulations are kind of the point of the government. We need them to reduce danger to the public and to keep the wheels of society greased. And when a major invention stands poised to change everything, we need new rules. We have self-driving cars. We need self-driving car regulations.

The National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) just issued a statement of recommendations regarding self-driving cars in a city. Summed up into six basic rules, the recommendations are clearly going to be tough for driverless car companies to swallow. I’ll be expecting pushback, but there’s no avoiding the amount of self-driving car regulations we’ll need.

Here are the rules as delivered by Streetsblog, and why the car developers won’t like them:

1. Cars should be fully autonomous, not partly — Requiring no driver input is a move designed to cut down on accidents.

2. Maximum speeds on city streets should not exceed 25 miles per hour — self-driving cars could be the world’s most easily enforceable speed limit. Out of all the self-driving car regulations mentioned here, this will be the toughest to convince the general public to accept.

3. Reduce highway expansions — self-driving cars increase road capacity because they remove the need for a buffer zone between vehicles. Therefore, highway expansions might not be needed in many areas that are currently planning them.

4. Require vehicles to gather important public data — ” travel patterns, traffic speeds, and how people use cars in general.” It’s kind of a dystopian suggestion, but okay, NACTO, okay.

5. Study how vehicle automation can improve transit — Bus systems might soon be a lot more cost-effective.

6. People should “use automated vehicles to build the cities they want” — this is the big picture that NACTO is getting at: The innovation should be used to improve city life, but it could easily just warp city life to incorporate self-driving cars. All these self-driving car regulations are designed to ensure they serve the city, not the other way around.

What do think? Iron-clad rules regulating speed limits would be new, and transitioning to them will definitely annoy plenty of people. The data collection could boost regulations further while potentially invading privacy. Also, none of these self-driving car regulations address the undoubtedly lengthy period of transition, in which both self-driving and regular cars will be on city streets together. Automated cars might be the future, but they bring plenty of massive problems with them.

H/T Metafilter

Image: Wikipedia

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Adam is a writer with an interest in a variety of mediums, from podcasts to comic books to video essays to novels to blogging — too many, basically. He's based out of Seattle, and remains a staunch defender of his state's slogan: "sayWA." In his spare time, he recommends articles about science fiction on Twitter, @AdamRRowe

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