Self-Driving Cars without Back-Up Drivers or Steering Wheels?

Fagjun | Published 2017-03-12 21:54

New regulations will allow the testing and use of self-driving cars with no back-up drivers, steering wheels, or pedals.

California's car manufacturers and tech companies aim to develop driverless car technology further than where it is now. Present regulations require these cars to have a steering wheel and a back-up driver for emergencies. However, California's tech giants have aready developed cars that can be truly independent from human intervention. After all, driverless car technology is one of the fastest-growing ones in California at least.

By the end of 2017, the world can expect these self-driving cars to ply the roads of California in their initial road-testing phase.

While these cars will no longer need a back-up driver, they will still have remote monitoring. They will also be able to pull over when there is an emergency. However, the rules that regulate driverless cars first need to change before the cars hit the road.

Safer Roads with Self-Driving Cars

A Waymo self-driving car
[Photo by Grendelkhan]

These cars aren't just a cool new invention, or automation for the sake of automation. Many motor vehicle accidents happen due to human factors. There are people who drive while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or both. Others are sleep-deprived, inexperienced, or distracted. Some, meanwhile, are overconfident about their driving skills.

A self-driving car won't be driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. It doesn't need sleep, and it won't be texting or talking to someone on the phone while on the road. It also doesn't have kids that it has to keep under control. Self-driving cars can make the roads safer because it removes human error from the equation.

Google's Waymo, a self-driving car project, reports that their cars have had a very small chance of getting into an accident. The cars had driven a total of 424,331 miles. Their back-up human drivers have only had to intervene 11 times to prevent a collision. A driverless Waymo car with no steering wheel has also been able to safely drive a blind man through Texas streets.

Rules and Regulations

Last week, California's state department of motor vehicles proposed new regulations for self-driving cars. These new regulations will allow driverless cars that operate with very little human intervention. Manufacturers can also declare their own cars to be ready for hitting the road.

However, the organization Consumer Watchdog is critical of the new regulations. The organization claims that the proposal is “too industry-friendly” and is less concerned with public safety.

In spite of criticisms, driverless car manufacturers have lobbied the US Congress and transportation department for new regulations. Because the technology is growing and developing quickly, it's better to introduce driverless cars to the market soon. Road-testing the vehicles can begin by the end of this year, and a limited number of units can go on the market by next year. Of course, this won't happen unless the federal government decides to change the regulations governing driverless cars.

The proposed regulations are also subject to public hearings and scrutiny. The proposal might change, but regardless, manufacturers hope that they can soon move forward with developing truly self-driving cars.

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