The funny thing about this ad is that it makes me really want to support Jeff Brandes.
(of course, I’d have to look at where he stands on all major issues, but he got this one right)
First lets consider this concept we hear so much about called “creating jobs.” Based on this video you might be lead to believe that the way you “create jobs” is by ignoring all legislation that is not attached to a bill with the word “jobs” in it, or by doing the typical thing of pouring money into direct subsidies for businesses and going out to a lot of wind-bag photo ops on various white elephant projects.
In reality, jobs are created when an economy grows. Economic growth is spurred by innovation and improvements in business models and technology. Not only does this create jobs, but it’s what allows standards of living to improve and societies to grow in general. Every time someone invents something new or improves how a service or product is delivered, demand is created and economic growth occurs. Ultimately, it produces the need for upgrades, new business opportunities, demand for labor and returns on capital investments.
A modern economy cannot prosper by standing still. New ventures need to be created, products need to be improved and new technologies must be invented. That is what brings prosperity.
Therefore, anything that can be done legislatively to reduce the burdens that prevent innovation is a good thing and in the long run, will help create jobs and generally improve the economy.
How this relates to the driverless car:
The automated vehicle is a technology whose time has come. Existing technology is already very much capable of controlling a car’s speed, keeping it on the road and in the correct lane and avoiding hazards and obstacles. In fact, it can do this more reliably and safely than a human can, since computerized systems do not suffer fatigue or become distracted. Safe and reliable driverless car technology has been demonstrated for more than a decade. Most recently, Google’s experimental driverless cars have already logged 300,000 miles on public roads without a single accident.
The benefits to driverless cars are vast. Aside from increases safety, an automated driving system would liberate drivers from the mundane task of maintaining control of a vehicle, allowing them to read, surf the internet or take a nap. Because of the greater safety margins, it may be possible to allow driverless cars to travel at much greater speeds than manually controlled vehicles. They can also safely travel in groups, traveling at high speed with only inches between each vehicle. This can dramatically increase highway capacity and also reduce fuel consumption. Driverless cars do not slow down to gawk at accidents or other incidents, resulting in fewer ‘rubbernecking’ delays.
There are also numerous applications that driverless cars could be used for. Rental cars could be programed to drive themselves back to the rental agency, allowing customers to simply depart the car at an airport terminal and not have to bother returning it themselves. Individuals who cannot safely drive due to visual impairment or other disabilities, would no longer have to give up their autonomy and rely on others for rides. Long convoys of cargo-carrying trucks could be automated, providing savings in driver wages and fuel. Important deliveries could be made without the need to have a driver.
As is always the case with this kind of technology, there will be those who stand to lose their jobs due to changing needs for labor. It’s possible that vehicle automation could result in delivery and long distance truck drivers becoming less in demand or car services seeing a drop in business. Even so, it’s never valid to try to suppress a technology based solely on the fear that it will cause short-term job loses. New technologies may be disruptive of traditional labor trends, but they always end up creating more jobs by spurring more innovation and creating the need for upgrades. Such is the case with driverless vehicles, which have the potential to improve safety and efficiency and create entire new markets for things like in-car entertainment systems, mobile internet systems, automated traffic reporting and other products and services.
We will likely see driverless cars in our lifetimes, but it should be noted that the fully-functional driverless vehicle is not likely to come all at once. Already partially automated driving systems are available in production vehicles. Adaptive cruise control has become common on new cars. Modern vehicles now also feature lane-departure warning systems, some of which include the ability to guide a car back into a lane if the driver does not correct for drifting. A few cars can apply the breaks to avoid collisions. Even completely automated parking can now be found in production cars.
These features will only grow in availability and capabilities in the years go come. As such, vehicle automation will likely first arrive in the capacity of systems intended to assist drivers or actively control the vehicle to avoid collisions, but will not replace the driver. This may be followed by automated driving systems whose only function is to keep a car within a given lane on a highway. Eventually this will lead to cars that can drive themselves on highways and finally to general purpose driverless vehicles. It will happen, but it’s hard to say how long it will take to get there completely.
Why Jeff Brandes should be applauded for his stance on automated road vehicles:
The technology of driverless vehicles is very real and it will become commonplace. However, one of the biggest hurdles that must be addressed is not technical but rather regulatory. Road safety requires effective rules and regulations for how vehicles are operated and the laws that are currently on the books were written long before the possibility of driverless vehicles existed.
A few basic issues that need to be addressed:
- What are the design criteria for automated vehicle systems. What kind of redundancy and safety features are needed.
- When is it permissible to have full automation and when might it be not permissible.
- To what extent are competent licensed drivers necessary and what are their responsibilities when in the vehicle.
- If an accident does occur when a vehicle is operating under automation, how is fault assigned.
- What are the standards for signaling and communication between automated vehicles.
- To what extent are laws like speed limits and tailgating regulations applicable to automated vehicles.
- To what extent should the government tailor infrastructure to automated vehicles, such as creating special lanes or signaling for traffic lights.
These are important issues that need to be considered. It’s not unsafe to address these regulatory issues. In fact, it is a major enhancement to safety to assure that these kind of regulatory and safety considerations are properly addressed.
Driverless vehicles are not inherently unsafe. The level of technology may or may not permit them to operate on side streets and around pedestrians. It all depends on the level of sophistication and the circumstances. This is exactly what regulators should be considering.
I applaud Jeff Brandes for being a rare example of a legislator who is forward thinking and willing to address the changes technology demands of legislation. All too often, we find the government lags far behind developments in science and technology. That’s why we often find that old laws are shoe-horned into situations they were not intended to address. (For example, prosecuting internet crimes using ‘wire fraud’ laws that were intended to address transactions over teletype or using outdated intellectual property laws to govern things like software code and genetically modified organisms.)
We need more legislators with the kind of mentality of Mr. Brandes.
And no, it won’t mean killer robot cars will be mowing down old ladies!
This entry was posted on Friday, September 21st, 2012 at 3:33 pm and is filed under Bad Science, Culture, Just LAME, Politics, media. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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