According to Lynn Bartels, writing in The Denver Post, Colorado state Senator Greg Brophy says he introduced Senate Bill 16 to legalize self-driving vehicles, because he loves technology. The bill is scheduled to be heard in the Senate Transortation Committee on February 5, Bartels reports. She writes that although Google has been “driving the driverless-car push” in other states, Brophy says he has not been lobbied by Google.
In an opinion piece, “Carroll: Should Colorado give a green light to self-driving cars?,” Denver Post columnist Vincent Carroll notes that by 2040, 75% of all vehicles on the roads will drive themselves, according to the Institute of Electronics Engineers. Carroll writes that 2040 is not that far away, but..:
State Sen. Greg Brophy would like to push up that 2040 date for self-driving cars, which are no mere fantasy but exist in prototype. So the Republican from Wray has authored a bill ‘to encourage the adaptation and use of self-driving vehicles on our roadways.’
It’s not that self-driving vehicles are illegal at the moment, but there’s a question of liability so long as the law doesn’t provide for their use.
Self-driving vehicles work with the help of video cameras, radio sensors, and a laser range finder in order to “see” other traffic, Carroll writes. The vehicles also use detailed maps to navigate the roads. Carroll reports that Brophy was partly motivated to introduce his bill because auto-steer on a tractor is “way more precise than a human driving a tractor”:
‘I’ve driven tractors with auto steer. And it’s one of the coolest things in the world to have your tractor take a perfectly straight line across the field.’ […]
‘I drive about 50,000 miles a year,’ he added, ‘and I would love to clear out my email’ while in a car rather than keep an eye on the road. So naturally, his Senate Bill 16 provides for use of a ‘mobile phone, including text messaging, while using a guidance system.’
Carroll points out that Bill 16 would allow a person to drive using a guidance system only if a vehicle has an override switch and its driver has a license and insurance. In addition, the bill would hold the human driver responsible for any damage caused by a self-driving vehicle to the same degree as if the driver were manually at the controls.
Don’t panic: It’s not as if your daffy neighbor is going to pull up to the curb in a self-driving car anytime soon if the legislation passes. There are no models in general production, although Wired reported last year that ‘GM’s Cadillac division expects to produce partially autonomous cars at a large scale by 2015’ and several other automakers — including Audi, BMW, Volvo and Lexus — have self-driving concept cars, too.
As this blog noted in the post “U.S. Moving Towards Setting Performance Standards for Driverless Cars,” National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Administrator David Strickland said that human error was a factor in about 90% of the more than 33,000 traffic deaths recorded in 2010, and that self-driving cars can eventually save “thousands and thousands of lives as the vehicle fleet (cars in use today) turns over.”