A panel of experts has convened in the US to consider issues surrounding the use of autonomous vehicles, and will provide recommendations for state highway safety agencies, law enforcement, and other safety advocates.
The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) panel includes national experts from the federal government, the automotive and technology industries, criminal justice organisations, national safety groups and GHSA’s State Highway Safety Office members.
And while there is still much debate as to when the driverless car revolution will hit society, and although we are likely decades away from a free-for-all driverless dream (if we ever get there at all), the technology has already begun to penetrate transport industries around the globe.
The association says advances in motor vehicle technologies continue to blur the definitions of “driver” and “machine,” and that the implications for the everyday motorist and the law enforcement officers on the front lines of highway safety can easily be overlooked.
GHSA executive director Jonathan Adkins said the benefits of autonomous vehicles would only be realised if the public had a good understanding of the technology behind them.
“Autonomous vehicles and burgeoning safety technologies hold tremendous potential for saving lives on our roads, but public understanding of what these vehicles are – and aren’t – capable of is paramount toward achieving these benefits.”
The GHSA noted that law enforcement, prosecutors, and judges were the “boots on the ground” for enforcing traffic laws, responding to traffic crashes, and adjudicating traffic offences.
“These partners need to know what to expect as these technologies take the road and how to navigate the adjudication process when laws are broken and crashes occur.”
It’s hoped the project will present valuable recommendations that states can use to adapt their behavioural traffic safety programs to reflect the ever-changing technology landscape on our roads.
GHSA plans to develop a white paper to inform its members and other traffic safety stakeholders of the panel’s conclusions.
Why are autonomous vehicles needed?
Some claim autonomous vehicles represent the most significant transport transformation since motorised cars replaced the horse-drawn cart in the early 20th century. But are they necessary?
It’s widely accepted that autonomous vehicles are more efficient, and are likely to reduce carbon emissions and ease congestion. The key point for the world of health and safety, however, is that they claim to be safer. Unlike humans, automated systems do not get tired and they do not get distracted.
In fact, McKinsey & Co. predicts that self-driving cars could reduce crash rates up to 90 percent.