The future of autonomous vehicles might give millions of elderly and disabled citizens a chance at driving, but new draft regulations released in December by the state of California point to a long battle for fully driverless cars on the road.
Google’s director of the self-driving project, Chris Urmson, said he was disappointed in the draft regulations, which state that the driver must be able to control the car at all times. This is similar to the current laws on autonomous vehicles, which Tesla have already implemented.
Google will still be able to test its vehicles on driverless mode, but a driver is still required to sit in the vehicle. That is a low blow for the company, which might have been hoping for a bit of leeway this year as it prepares to commercialize its self-driving project.
Several organized groups called for a relaxation in the laws and a way for disabled people to control autonomous cars. “If there’s an autonomous car, there needs to be a means by which a blind person can operate that car as well,” said Parnell Diggs, board member of the National Federation of the Blind to Medill.
“It would behoove the auto industry to certainly keep the elderly and the disabled in mind, as a growing proportion of the American population are aging baby boomers,” said Kenneth Jon, researcher at the Texas A&M Transportation Institute.
Autonomous cars can take down obstacles
Autonomous cars remove a lot of the issues some elderly people have in cars, like short sight and slow reactions. All of these improvements are for nought however, if regulations maintain that a driver needs to be inside the car and able to take command at all times.
Full autonomy might not come until 2020, according to Baidu, the Chinese company that is currently working on self-driving cars in Silicon Valley. Others, like Tesla, General Motors, and the PSA Group have similar predictions on when the market will be ready for driverless cars.
Until then, it looks like we’re stuck with highway self-driving and self-parking features coming to more cars.