Google has been working at making self-driving cars a reality since 2009, testing and building away while making little progress in talks about regulations that would help them get this new product out of test labs and designated streets and into the commutes, driveways and hearts of the buying public. All of that has been changing recently, however, with big wigs like U.S. Department of Transportation head Anthony Foxx getting involved, and even President Barack Obama finding opportunities to say a few words on the matter. It’s easy to think, at this point, that by the time Google has self-driving cars ready for public use, the law will accommodate them. Unfortunately, that’s not the state of things at the moment; in essence, self-driving cars are going to require either the rewriting and amending of numerous existing laws, or an entire framework of laws to be written in conditionally. Either method will obviously take a lot of time, effort and, more than likely, money.
On that subject, Google has seen more than their fair share of ups and downs. With testing going swimmingly in most areas, it’s safe to say, at this point, that the long arm of the law is likely to end up being their biggest hurdle to public deployment. While Canada is a bit divided on the issue but has welcomed the cars for testing, Google got a bit of a stinger from their home state of California, saying that self-driving cars were cool, but only if humans could intervene at a moment’s notice. For the most part, this is the state of current laws nationwide and it largely defeats the point of a self-driving car. With the laws as they are now, the idea of unowned self-driving cars driving down transport costs and giving more freedom to those who can’t drive is a bit of a pipedream.
There is some progress being made toward bringing the law up to snuff and setting the stage for Google to roll out self-driving cars the way they planned and spark a revolution, but it will take time. The Federal D.O.T., according to a ruling, has until July to get it together and lay out some ground rules for Google to comply with on a nationwide level. This doesn’t, of course, negate the authority of individual states, counties and cities to legally limit the usefulness and scope of self-driving cars as a concept. In order for everything to be set up properly for optimal integration of self-driving cars into the nation’s existing transportation framework, a great deal of current laws would have to be altered, which could take a good few years.