The U.S. government recently came out strongly in favor of autonomous cars. Self-driving vehicles, officials said, would save lives, and would make commuters’ less miserable.
To be sure, the government stopped short of issuing new regulations in the rapidly developing market. Still, the 15-point guidelines it issued were sufficiently specific as to signal its focus on safety, yet vague enough as to avoid restricting further developments.
The guidelines deal with four broad issues. Safety standards for the design and development of autonomous vehicles; a recommendation for states to agree on uniform policies on self-driving cars; how current regulations apply to driverless vehicles; and opening the field to new regulations on the technology.
At Future Imperfect, we have addressed repeatedly the challenges posed by self-driving cars, not always welcoming the new technology. It would take this writer a lot of convincing, and perhaps some more forceful methods of persuasion, to ride a fast machine with nobody at the wheel.
Yet what we find commendable in the government’s attitude is what has often set the United States apart from other countries. In the face of inevitable technological progress, the government decided to embrace it, and hence have greater involvement in its development. Hindering it would not stop it, and might even imperil passengers and pedestrians in a regulatory vacuum. Conversely, a farsighted stance is pioneering, and serves best the public interest.