If you’re familiar with the self-driving car scene, you probably are well aware that laws and regulations are currently one of the bigger roadblocks to a mainstream rollout of fully automated vehicles. Google met with a fairly unsatisfactory resolution in California, but hopes lawmakers will give them a bit more wiggle room elsewhere. Austin, Texas, in particular has been friendly. Unfortunately, the logical conclusion of this line of events is for some poor consumer to buy a self-driving car in one state, drive it into another and suddenly have it kick into manual mode because that state has outlawed self-driving cars. At some point, Federal authorities will have to step in. According to the secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation, Anthony Foxx, they’re working on it.
Foxx has been diving into the tech culture that’s trying to penetrate the transport industry to try and find a happy middle ground, going as far as speaking at CES. He sums up the legal plight of the self-driving revolution quite nicely when asked by Re/Code. “Historically,”, he says to tech companies in general, “we may seem like a foreign creature to many of the tech companies that are used to doing great innovation and moving it directly to the marketplace. In the automobile area, there’s a very elaborate rule-making and regulatory framework. What we’re trying to do is to find out where there are touch points in our regulatory system that would prevent innovation happening in the automobile space. And trying to get ahead of that and smooth that out before we have a situation where the technology is ready to go and we’ve not figured out how to help it get there.”
In essence, he and his people are well aware of what’s going on and that they need to stay one step ahead of the tech world’s advance on transportation in order to avert disaster. On that note, he said, “…that guidance is being worked on as we speak. I expect in the next days and weeks I’ll be able to make some announcement about that.” He also stated that he hopes to smooth things over in California by working hand-in-hand with tech companies as rules are drafted up on a federal level. He caps off the questionnaire by commenting that he expects to see fully autonomous cars on U.S. roads in the next five years. It will likely be a bumpy road, so to speak, but if the person in charge has ideas about how to approach the tech industry’s encroachment into transport, lawmakers will at least not be caught unawares when the time comes and products begin hitting the market.