The vision of autonomous cars ferrying people around got a huge boost with a US Senate committee unanimously approving the legislation that will allow self-driving cars in the US. The bill is known as American Vision for Safer Transportation through Advancement of Revolutionary Technologies (AV START) Act.
Field Testing of Autonomous Cars
An important part of the bill revolves around testing the driverless cars. The original bill was drafted by Senator Gary Peters and John Thune, Chairman, Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee. This bill had a provision to allow car makers to field test 100,000 cars a year; these cars are exempt from current safety standards. The current, approved bill, however, allows field testing only for 80,000 cars a year. Senator Richard Blumenthal introduced this approved bill.
That’s still a pretty big number for autonomous car makers to field test this new breed of cars. Some states such as California and Washington allow driverless cars to have test runs on their roads. Data generated from testing these cars will ensure safer and more trustable cars. Senator Gary Peters has duly emphasized the importance of this bill. He says, “This is cutting-edge technology that is advancing extremely fast. It’s going to happen a lot sooner than people realize. This is not decades — it’s a matter of a few years.”
Safer and Convenient Future with Autonomous Cars
The bill aims to address two of the most pressing issues—reducing accidents caused by human error and traffic congestion. Data reveals human error causing 90% of car crashes resulting in nearly 40,000 deaths. Replacing human drivers with technology could significantly bring down this number. Further, with driverless cars, experts expect traffic congestion to reduce as well.
Amidst the widespread support for the bill, some senators and experts do have a concern about the current bill. The bill does not include driverless trucks. Trucks often feature in a large number of accidents. Therefore, the concerns around not involving the trucks in the current bill are valid.
The US Senate will soon put the bill to vote.