Government promotes research on automated cars

Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Chris Woodward (

An expert in transportation studies says it was inevitable that the federal government would launch a new research effort regarding automated cars, but he won't go so far as to say that it's warranted.

This month, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said the federal government was planning to launch a new research effort to determine the safety and reliability of technologies that enable cars to drive themselves. Google is developing a fleet of such vehicles, and some automakers are thought to be moving in that direction.

Marc Scribner, fellow in land-use and transportation studies at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, tells OneNewsNow that it is no surprise NHTSA got involved.


"I wouldn't say it's warranted, but it's inevitable that NHTSA is going to get involved," he says. "They're the private automobile safety regulator in the U.S. The state regulations don't exist and the way that the state by state legislation is going, so many of them are going to be deferring to the federal government that NHTSA is going to have to do something."

One piece of legislation that concerns Scribner is not actually from federal or state lawmakers, but city lawmakers. A bill in Washington, DC, would require that all autonomous vehicles use alternative fuels.

"We have a technology that isn't even available to consumers yet, and we already have politicians telling automakers how they should design their cars," Scribner remarks. "Right now, alternative fuel vehicles are only about 2.5 percent of cars sold."

Mandating that autonomous vehicles use alternative fuels is, according to Scribner, limiting their potential market. He recommends that people in positions of authority wait for autonomous vehicle technology to develop and hear what the auto and insurance industries have to say before letting this play out voluntarily.

"You're not going to have this marketed to consumers if the manufacturers can't guarantee that it's safe and if it fails to function," he points out.

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