Driverless cars used to seem like the stuff of sci-fi. But as the U.S. unveils a list of guidelines about self-driving vehicles today, it's safe to say that these cars have zipped from the realm of a distant future to the regulatory thicket that's an all too clear reminder that this is very much a present day reality.
The government will propose 15 benchmarks today that automakers will need to meet before their driverless vehicles can hit the road, Bloomberg reports. And there's good reason for these guidelines: In July, Tesla confirmed that a fatal accident in its driverless Model S car was caused by the vehicles failure to tell the difference between a white truck and the clear sky. There's also the ominous risk of self-driving vehicles getting hacked.
Still, automakers are worried about regulation stifling innovation at this key juncture.
President Barack Obama writing in an op-ed for the Pittsburg Post-Gazette yesterday tried to calm such fears and strike a balance between regulation and innovation. "Right now, too many people die on our roads — 35,200 last year alone — with 94% of those the result of human error or choice," he wrote. "Automated vehicles have the potential to save tens of thousands of lives each year."
It's a concept that may be hard to grasp: giving up control to a machine that can take care of us better than we can take care of ourselves. Welcome to the future.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR TODAY
- Obama's final speech to the UN General Assembly.
- Two-day Federal Open Market Committee meeting opens, amid rate hike anxiety.