Self-driving cars have the potential to significantly improve traffic safety, but only if policymakers ensure that our roads are ready for them. That’s why we applaud Albany lawmakers who recently authorized tests of autonomous vehicles – but there’s much more work to be done to prepare for this emerging technology.
It’s an appropriately measured way to introduce autonomous technology to New York roads. It’s a far more thoughtful approach than a 2015 plan on which we commented at the time – one that would have authorized driverless cars with too little state oversight. Under the current legislation, tests may only be conducted under the direct supervision of the state police. The authorization expires in April 2018.
We believe autonomous vehicles require such a deliberate approach, as the technology is not perfect. AAA has tested some of the building blocks of autonomous vehicles, including autonomous emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring systems, adaptive cruise control and rear cross-traffic alerts. While each of these systems provided safety benefits, no vehicle has yet performed flawlessly across all test scenarios.
Nevertheless, the technology is improving rapidly. Of course, human drivers won’t be replaced anytime soon; experts predict that even by 2025, barely 1 percent of vehicles on American roads will be autonomous. The biggest obstacle may be public opinion: According to a recent AAA survey, 78 percent of Americans would be afraid to ride in a self-driving vehicle.
That same survey found that the more experience drivers had with advanced vehicle technology, the more they trusted it. So a gradual approach will be necessary to increase acceptance. We hope to see a fuller regulatory framework developed in the coming years. But for now, this legislation is a reasonable start.
An appropriate regulatory framework will be necessary to facilitate advancing vehicle technology, but self-driving cars will also need the basics: roads with few potholes, visible lane markings and clear signage. Thus, the best way to prepare for the autonomous future is to do what we should have been doing in the past: increasing investment in the safety of our roads and bridges.
Visit www.aaanys.com to learn more.