In Brief
Three United States Senators have announced six principles they will use for the development of autonomous vehicle legislation. From prioritizing safety to remaining tech neutral, these principles will usher in the era of the AV.

The Future of AV Legislation

Autonomous vehicles (AVs) are poised to make our roads safer — if they can ever get permission to be on our roads, that is.

The Technologies That Power Self-Driving Cars [INFOGRAPHIC]
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Despite all the talk, successful tests, and tech advancements, very little has been accomplished legislatively. Without the government go-ahead, we can’t yet integrate these vehicles into our current infrastructure, and the lack of progress has resulted in very few cities preparing for the seemingly inevitable autonomous revolution.

Finally, it looks like that’s about to change. Yesterday, June 13, United States Senators Bill Nelson, Gary Peters, and John Thune announced the six principles that they plan to use to draft legislation for autonomous vehicles:

  • Prioritize Safety: This one should be the top priority of any new vehicle.
  • Promote Continued Innovation and Reduce Existing Roadblocks: Clearly, AVs are uncharted territory, so we’ll need to develop a new class of rules for this new class of vehicle, but we can’t let that development process delay innovation.
  • Remain Tech Neutral: Legislation shouldn’t include policies that favor one technology over another, for example, supporting the implementation of autonomous systems designed by veteran car makers over those of startups.
  • Reinforce Separate Federal and State Roles: New legislation must make clear which aspects of regulation should be covered by each level of government and ensure that neither steps on the other’s legislative toes.
  • Strengthen Cybersecurity: AV manufacturers must be required to guard against the vulnerabilities engrained in the fundamentally electronic technology.
  • Educate the Public to Encourage Responsible Adoption of Self-Driving Vehicles: It’s the government’s responsibility to work with the private sector to ensure that the public accurately understands the capabilities of self-driving vehicles.

Planning for the Autonomous Revolution

As with any transformative technology, governments and businesses have a responsibility to adequately plan for contingencies, consider potential guidelines, and develop legislation before introducing autonomous driving systems to the public. By taking these steps, they’ll be able to avoid irresponsible use based on ignorance, unforeseen legislative gray areas, or public resistance to the technology when it hits the market.

The legislation of driverless cars is particularly important because lives are at stake — we must do everything we can to integrate the technology in the safest possible way. This becomes even more pressing when we consider that driverless systems could be on state roads within the next two months.

The guidelines for AVs are also particularly important as they may set a legal precedent for the wider introduction of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies. Automated systems are poised to become more and more integrated into various aspects of our lives in the coming years, and in the process, they could introduce problems unlike any we’ve previously encountered. The worst thing we could do is wait for those problems to surface before planning ways to deal with them.