Self-Drivers Coming Soon
Sacramento city officials are currently working with self-driving technology companies to hopefully make the city a testing ground for the tech within the next year. “Sacramento is perfect for testing autonomous cars because it's shaped in a grid,” Chief Innovation Officer Louis Stewart told KCRA. “So I would say within the next year, you'll see some cars in and around Sacramento. Whether it be driving around midtown or toward Sac State, or somewhere in and around the city.”
Since 2014, self-driving cars have been permitted by the DMV to test in California, but with a person behind the wheel as a precaution. 42 companies have so far attained testing permits for autonomous vehicles and safety has remained among the biggest concerns surrounding the technology.
“This technology provides the hope that we can create a much safer transportation network,” Mayor Darrell Steinberg told KCRA. “What we want to do in Sacramento is both test the technology, but match the technology with our proximity to the state Capitol. And make sure we are helping to develop the regulatory framework to allow this industry to take off.”
The California DMV reports that eight of the 13 accidents with these vehicles reported so far in 2017 occurred while in autonomous mode; all were minor and happened in the Bay Area. By the end of the year, the DMV plans to release rules governing testing and the public use of self-driving cars.
Many Testing Grounds
Right now Lyft is testing self-driving cars in San Francisco, but not all without human attendants. GM's Cruise program also tested in San Francisco, Nissan is testing in London, and Tesla has tested all over California. Waymo is testing self-driving vehicles in the Phoenix area and used an application form on its website to attract a long list of riders in the area.
There are clear benefits to having self-driving vehicles on the road. In the United States between 2014 and 2015, traffic fatalities increased by 7.7 percent, and in the U.S. almost 40,000 people die in car accidents annually. Autonomous cars would stem this tide by removing the primary factor in 94 percent of these cases: human error. And, while the current regulatory stance on self-drivers at the federal level is murky, an ideal outcome will occur once self-driving technologies have reached their safest point and testing is complete.