On September 6, 2017, the U.S. House approved a bill in furtherance of
the development of self-driving cars. The bill would allow companies that
are developing self-driving technology to apply for safety and design
exemptions at both the state and federal level, which would enable them
to get cars on the road for testing. If the bill is eventually approved
and passed by the Senate, as many
as 100,000 experimental cars could be added to America’s roadways each year. This would be a
huge step forward towards the seemingly lofty goal to have a majority
of the cars on the road be self-driving vehicles. According to federal
statistics, approximately 95% of all car crashes are caused by human mistakes.
Experts note that if a majority of vehicles on the road became automated,
car collision numbers and fatalities would undoubtedly drop dramatically.
However, we should note that a big issue was left out of the bill: the
development of self-driving tractor trailers. It was left out because
it is a difficult and highly-politicized issue due to the amount of more
high-paying jobs the truck industry offers. In December of 2016, the
White House released a report estimating that between 1.3 to 1.7 million heavy and tractor trailer-driving jobs could disappear because of automated
driving. While these numbers are not set in stone and the White House
did not specify over what length of time this job loss could occur, it
is a reflection of the human costs and difficulties that exist in developing
such technology, and legislators ought to proceed with great care. That
being said, the development of such technology should probably go hand-in-hand
with that of passenger vehicles on the road, as developing automated commercial trucks
could also potentially save thousands of lives each year.