Colorado State Sen. Brophy Indefinitely Postponed Self-Driving Car Bill
Colorado State Senator Greg Brophy, a Republican from Wray, has asked the Senate Transportation Committee to postpone his driverless car bill indefinitely, according to news reports. As this blog noted previously, Brophy had introduced Senate Bill 16 to allow driverless cars on roads in the state.
The New York Times blog Wheels writes that last Tuesday, Brophy asked for the postponement saying that Google and trial lawyers had objected to the bill, making it unlikely that Democrats on the committee would support it. A Google official had testified last Tuesday in opposition to the bill, Monte Whaley writes for The Denver Post. “Google backed a driverless-car bill in California, but a spokesperson on Tuesday said the company had ‘reservations’ about Brophy’s bill but would not elaborate,” Whaley writes.
If the bill had been approved, Colorado would have become the fifth state to legalize self-driving cars, Whaley notes, and says that Brophy gave no indication of when or if he would reintroduce the bill. States that allow road testing of the autonomous cars include California, Nevada, and Florida.
In a related article in The Denver Post, Whaley writes about Denny Moyer, 54, a legally blind Loveland, CO, woman, whose macular degeneration prevents her from being able to drive. To get to her job in Fort Collins, she has to depend on the regional bus system, in a commute that Whaley says requires two bus transfers.
Brophy said that self-driving cars would help people with severe vision problems to lead a more normal life, Whaley writes. Whaley quotes Moyer, who would really like to see self-driving cars allowed in Colorado:
Self-driving cars would be one huge relief to many low-sight Coloradans, she said.
‘It would be an independence many people have never had,’ said Moyer.
Despite last week’s setback, Moyer is convinced Colorado highways will soon be filled with robotic cars.
‘They are coming,’ she said, ‘and it will happen in my lifetime.’
Angela Greiling Keane reported recently for Bloomberg that Google Inc., which has been developing and testing driverless cars, expects them to be available for consumers in three to five years, although regulators and insurance industry executives are not as encouraging. She writes:
Software and electronic sensors couldn’t fail and would have to anticipate and react like a human. States may have to decide how to license machines rather than people. Insurance companies have to reassess how to assign fault after accidents. Safety standards have to be rewritten to focus on electronics along with mechanics.
Keane notes that David Strickland, head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, has said driverless cars would make a “huge difference in reducing crashes overall.” About 33,000 people die annually in traffic accidents in the U.S., with that number falling yet killing almost as many people each year as suicide, Keane writes.
Although Google is known for online searching and digital advertising, it has a policy of letting employees develop other ideas, and this is how the company’s self-driving vehicle project came about, Keane writes. This blog has noted that self-driving vehicles work via video cameras, radio sensors, and a laser range finder in order to “see” other traffic, as columnist Vincent Carroll wrote in an opinion piece in The Denver Post.