According to NBCNews, California is in the process of making self-driving cars legal in the state. The state senate has passed legislation requiring the Department of Motor Vehicles to set the conditions under which they can be operated. Apparently the state is not the first – Nevada did it last year – but given California’s influence it’s a more significant development.
It’s very early days and there’s likely to be much debate on the detail, so nothing’s going to happen soon. But the basic legislation is expected to be signed off by the state governor.
Much of the technology is already in place, Google, for example, has been developing vehicles for years. In fact technology companies are expected to be closely involved in setting future standards for self-drive cars.
Review: Well if we’re going to have private cars then vehicles that operate automatically, without continual human intervention, offer a much more sustainable solution. Optimal speeds for fuel consumption, enforced speed limits, collision avoidance and a lot of other functionality could make cars more energy efficient and safe. There are huge opportunities for ICT companies in developing and supplying the technology, as well as for other systems to interact with the cars, such as advanced warning of traffic signals, automatic divert around problems, etc. etc.
But you have to ask yourself whether this is really the way forward. A fully integrated public transport system could achieve much the same thing in a far more sustainable way. If your smartphone can instantly tell you the best route and guide you to your destination (buying tickets on the way) then who needs a car? And the technology pretty much exists already as part of smart city developments, we just need the infrastructure.