Why We Can Not Overregulate Autonomous Vehicles
To understand the future of autonomous vehicles, you first have to imagine a world where a child born today will never drive.
A child born today will be 16 in 2032. At the same time, 1 in 5 U.S. citizens will be a senior citizen, which will create an interesting paradigm of ages at a time when both age groups are historically prone to making mistakes behind the wheel.
In the future, these potential driving mistakes will not happen if elected officials do not make the mistake of overregulating autonomous vehicles and putting undue burdens on the industry and society.
In September, Chicago aldermen Ed Burke and Anthony Beale proposed an ordinance that would ban autonomous car development in Chicago’s city limits.
The ordinance sends a very loud and clear message that the City of Chicago is no longer open to innovation. Which is a shame, as the City of Chicago has a long history of innovations that went on to change the world. The vacuum cleaner, the zipper, the mechanical dishwasher and the cell phone were invented in Chicago.
Instead of proposing a restrictive ordinance, aldermen Burke and Beale should have shown a willingness to follow Chicago’s rich history of innovation and engaged in open and honest conversations with the autonomous vehicle industry.
Illinois State Transportation Secretary Randall Blankenhorn has shown this willingness. In a speech to the City Club of Chicago in November, Secretary Randall stated that his agency is speaking with companies that want to use autonomous vehicles to deliver goods.
Secretary Blankenhorn’s speech and attitude towards the autonomous vehicle industry is both symbolic and strategic. He is positioning the State of Illinois for the future of transportation and working towards increasing safety on the roadways of Illinois.
As of December 20, 2016, 1,035 individuals have perished in automobile accidents in the State of Illinois in 2016 alone. This is an increase of 115 deaths from 2015 and the first time since 2008 that the number has surpassed 1,000. Putting this number into perspective, roughly 20 individuals each week have perished in an automobile accident in the State of Illinois this year so far.
This is 1,035 too many individuals who have had their lives cut short due to traveling on the roadways. There are thousands of family members who have received the cruelest phone call possible. A call that has completely changed their lives for the worse.
In the short term, sadly I expect this number to continue to increase as the rate of distracted driving continues to increase. Individuals in the United States look at their devices over 8 billion times a day in aggregate, and that includes while behind the wheel.
Over 2.5 million individuals in the U.S. are involved in road accidents each year. 1.6 million of these accidents have a cell phone involved with them, equating to 64% of all road accidents in the United States.
Summing up the distracted driving problem in Illinois, Secretary Blankenhorn told The State Journal-Register; “Most of our problems come down to a couple of things. Avoid disruptions, whether it’s being on your cell phone or texting while you’re walking on busy streets. We see a lot of distractions.”
The Illinois State Police have stated the use of a cell phone while driving increases your chance of getting into a crash by 400%.
With the alarming data from the State of Illinois and the dramatic increase in distracted driving, we are at a tipping point with needing a solution. The solution is autonomous vehicles.
Autonomous vehicles do not get distracted, which allows passengers in the vehicle to continue looking at their devices without having to worry about operating a vehicle.
To get to this future – a future with zero deaths on our roadways – we can not allow regulation to slow down innovation. Slowing down innovation will undoubtedly lead to an increase in deaths on American roadways.
Instead, we need to allow innovation to take us to a future where we will never have to worry about our safety while driving on our roadways again.
We need to allow innovation to take us to a future where we will never have to worry if our children make fatal mistakes while behind the wheel.
Autonomous vehicles will take us to this future and keep our children safe if the innovations coming from the autonomous vehicle industry are not overregulated.
Together we can engage in open and honest conversations that will ultimately save lives and increase mobility for every single American.