Despite the injurious rules and regulations laid down by this nation’s most populous state, the self-driving car is here to stay. A most recent attempt by Uber Technologies Inc. to conduct operational tests of 16 self-driving Volvos on the streets of San Francisco was halted by California’s Department of Motor Vehicles when, on December 21, they revoked their permit issued a week earlier on a pretext relating to the definition of “autonomous.” However, within twenty-four hours the vehicles were en route to Arizona, where Governor Doug Ducey welcomed Uber’s planned testing program and criticized California for its “burdensome” laws.
It’s understandable why driverless vehicles incur government hostility in areas where they threaten politically powerful groups, in this case the Teamsters Union and lobbyists representing firms which profit from the employment of drivers. A standard response to innovations of this sort has always been through regulatory machinations of one sort or another, which makes the planned enterprise technically or economically infeasible. I recall seeing articles from the early twentieth century where local ordinances prohibited a motor vehicle from driving on a road unless it was preceded by a person walking ahead of it waving a red lantern. As you might guess, these rules were instigated by the then influential horse industry which didn’t want competition.
Let me bring you up to date on the development and progress of what’s known as the autonomous car. Thus far four states enacted laws permitting operation and testing of such vehicles on public roads. Nevada’s went into effect in 2012, with the first license issued to a Toyota Prius. Florida became second, California third, and finally Michigan in December 2013. In May 2014, Google presented their concept for a fully functioning prototype, with neither steering wheels nor pedals, and plans to offer these cars to the public in 2020. A spokesman announced in June 2015 their testing teams drove over one million miles, essentially driverless, with no serious hazardous events.
A final thought: Although I welcome the concept of the driverless car, I’m fearful America may find itself with a massive unemployment it cannot sustain. I realize in the past that technology solved the problem of job loss; I’m not so confident our economy is capable of withstanding this particular “advancement.”