The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Community News Network

January 14, 2013

Is the world prepared for the driverless car era? Are you?

Picture it. You slip into your car, recline and start reading the day's news on your smartphone. The vehicle accelerates, smoothly navigates traffic and seamlessly merges onto the freeway, without your lifting a finger.

All around you, other autonomous cars zoom by. Each operates safely at high speeds, halving your commute time. Each drives with precision, eliminating congestion and conserving fuel. Each respects pedestrians, avoids collisions and always takes the most efficient route. Your car drops you at the office, then parks itself in a lot on the outskirts of town, where it awaits your summons at quitting time.

Such a glorious commute may be decades away. But the era of autonomous cars is fast approaching. Last week, Audi and Toyota both made headlines with advances in automated driving. Google has been a much-publicized pioneer in the field. Automakers General Motors, Daimler and Nissan, among many others, have plans to automate their products to varying degrees.

And no wonder. Autonomous cars could create lucrative new businesses, spur welcome advances in public planning, vastly improve our quality of life, mitigate human error on the roads, and, not least, reduce the more than 30,000 annual driving fatalities in the United States alone. There will also be drawbacks and unintended consequences. That's why policy makers need to start planning for a future that seems to be arriving faster than we ever expected.

Three issues in particular require scrutiny.

First, we'll need a new legal and regulatory framework. State and federal driving laws obviously weren't written with this technology in mind, but as Bryant Walker Smith of Stanford University's Center for Internet and Society has persuasively argued, automated vehicles are almost certainly already legal throughout the U.S.

California, Florida and Nevada have already begun regulating them. Such laws will start important conversations: They'll acclimate regulators, transportation authorities and law enforcement to the new technology, and offer manufacturers some degree of predictability. State lawmakers should also develop common legal and technical definitions; words such as "driverless" and "automated" are often used blithely yet can mean very different things. And states should consider how they'll need to update their licensing and registration rules and revise traffic laws — for instance, by reducing following- distance requirements when appropriate — to better accommodate autonomous technology.

Text Only
Community News Network
  • Wal-Mart to cut prices more aggressively in back-to-school push

    Wal-Mart Stores plans to cut prices more aggressively during this year's back-to-school season and will add inventory to its online store as the chain battles retailers for student spending.

    July 21, 2014

  • Hospitals let patients schedule ER visits

    Three times within a week, 34-year-old Michael Granillo went to the emergency room at Northridge Hospital Medical Center in Los Angeles because of intense back pain. Each time, Granillo, who didn't have insurance, stayed for less than an hour before leaving without being seen by a doctor.

    July 21, 2014

  • Starved Pennsylvania 7-year-old weighed only 25 pounds

    A 7-year-old Pennsylvania boy authorities described as being so underweight he looked like a human skeleton has been released from the hospital.

    July 21, 2014

  • Malaysians wonder 'Why us?' after second loss of airline jet

    It was all too familiar. Grieving families rushing to airport. The flashing television graphics of a plane's last radar appearance. The uncomfortable officials before a heavy thicket of microphones.
    For many Malaysians, the disappearance of Flight 370 in March has been a long trauma from which the nation has not yet recovered.

    July 18, 2014

  • A quarter of the world's most educated people live in the 100 largest cities

    College graduates are increasingly sorting themselves into high-cost, high-amenity cities such as Washington, New York, Boston and San Francisco, a phenomenon that threatens to segregate us across the country by education.

    July 18, 2014

  • Your chocolate addiction is only going to get more expensive

    For nearly two years, cocoa prices have been on the rise. Finally, that's affecting the price you pay for a bar of chocolate - and there's reason to believe it's only the beginning.

    July 18, 2014

  • Facebook tests button to let people shop from its website

    Members on desktop computers or mobile devices can click a "buy" button to make purchases through advertisements or other posts on the world's largest social network, the Menlo Park, California-based company said Thursday in a blog post.

    July 17, 2014

  • The terrible history of passenger planes getting shot out of the sky

    What is more clear is that, if initial reports are true, this would be the deadliest incident of a civilian passenger plane being shot down in modern memory. In some instances, the causes of the disaster are still shrouded in mystery. Here are some of the worst events.

    July 17, 2014

  • 130408_NT_BEA_good kids We're raising a generation of timid kids

    A week ago, a woman was charged with leaving her child in the car while she went into a store. Her 11-year-old child. This week, a woman was arrested for allowing her 9-year-old daughter to go to the park alone. Which raises just one question: America, what the heck is wrong with you?

    July 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • web_starbucks-cof_big_ce.jpg Starbucks sees more Apple-like stores after Colombia debut

    This week Starbucks opened its first location in Colombia — a 2,700-square-foot store with a heated patio, concrete columns, mirrors on the ceiling and walls of colorful plants.

    July 17, 2014 1 Photo