The autonomous vehicle revolution may be closer than you think.
Much like electric cars, self-driving cars developed a reputation for always being a decade away from changing the auto industry. However, that may soon change thanks to the falling cost of electronics and investment from major tech and auto companies. For instance, General Motors Co. and Lyft Inc. will begin testing a fleet of self-driving Chevrolet Bolt electric taxis on public roads this year, in a challenge to Google and Uber programs in the same vein.
Meanwhile, Alphabet, Google’s parent company, is years into testing its vehicles already and recently reached a minivan-supply agreement with Fiat Chrysler. It has promised to make cars available to the public around the end of 2019, under the assumption that market will be ready.
Volvo has also been a leader in the autonomous car race with its Drive Me program which is currently testing 100 fully self-driving cars.
As more companies test their self-driving cars, regulation of the new technology is heating up.
Lobbyists in favor of establishing federal legislation to standardize rules are already aiming to convince politicians to take on the issue despite current political deadlock. Though the proposals aren’t likely to gain immediate traction on Capitol Hill, where deadlock is still a defining feature, many are optimistic that a national policy can be reached which will help encourage adoption of technologically advanced vehicles.
U.S. regulators are expected to release preliminary guidelines for driverless car rules this summer.
On the state-level, some legislatures are hoping to attract investment by pushing favorable legislation. Michigan lawmakers have already introduced bills to allow for public sales and operation, end the human operator requirement, and help create a highway speeds testing facility, which are all significant moves beyond states that allow only testing or require a driver be ready to take the wheel.
Under the updated laws, General Motors, Fiat Chrysler and Ford would be authorized to run networks of on-demand self-driving vehicles without drivers. Other states authorizing self-driving cars include Nevada, California, Florida, North Dakota, Tennessee and Utah.