Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed proposed legislation that would make it easier for companies to test self-driving cars on the roads. The new rules would add as many as 100,000 autonomous test vehicles to U.S. roads every year, compared to less than 500 today. Our guess is that the Senate will also approve the “Self Drive Act” and and it will become law by year end. That’s good news, but it doesn’t change the likelihood that lawmakers will be the biggest roadblock to autonomous adoption.
The big picture. Taking a step back, the impact of autonomy will be widespread including trucking, ride sharing, insurance, entertainment, energy companies, auto part suppliers, parking lots and even fast food (fewer impulse tacos once you’re no longer in control of your ride).
The gap between testing and adoption. Make no mistake, the passing of the Self Drive Act is essential to advancing a paradigm shift in transportation, but the transition to a world of autonomy will take longer than the five years that many tech observers expect. And the biggest risk to the timing of self-driving adoption isn’t tech, but lawmakers’ aversion to risk, and the inevitable slow hand in making autonomous cars street legal. You can see it now, federal and state lawmakers feverishly debating AI mortality around a car’s crash path, overlooking undeniable evidence that human error causes more than 90% of accidents and machines can reduce that risk.
They’ll come around. While lawmakers will slow the adoption of self-driving vehicles, they’ll eventually come around because of all the reasons why the Self Drive Act moved forward today, because the world will be a better, safer place with self-driving cars.
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