WASHINGTON, DC – Over the last several months, we’ve seen more and more companies announce plans to pursue the creation and manufacture of self-driving cars. Tesla has already been successful, announcing their intention to have an autonomous vehicle ready by 2018 for consumer purchase. Google’s prototype currently has a fleet of 58 self-driving vehicles being tested on public streets in California, Washington, Texas and Arizona. GM, Daimler, Volvo, Ford, Jaguar Land Rover, Audi and BMW have also announced plans to pursue the technology. As with most new technologies, the federal government has to play catch-up to this evolving area as it relates to rules and regulations.
This was made apparent when last month, a Tesla Model S on auto-pilot caused a fatal crash in Florida. Though the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) opened an investigation on the incident, NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind indicated that the recent controversy around the crash would not deter the agency from embracing self-driving cars as part of the future of safety on the nation's roads. However, the question remains as to what criteria must be established to ensure that driverless cars are safe for consumers. The Department of Transportation (DoT) has indicated that this guidance is likely to be issued sometime this summer. DoT Secretary Anthony Foxx has stated that this will come in the form of federal government guidelines for self-driving vehicles. Critics concerned over the technology have reacted negatively to this announcement, stating that guidelines are only voluntary and that enforceable standards must be established.
For some motorcyclists, there is the hope that a rise in driverless cars could eliminate many of those crashes caused by human error in car versus motorcycle accidents. However, others have expressed concerns over whether motorcyclists on the road can be accounted for by the autonomous technology, given their smaller dimensions. At a recent DoT symposium, staff from the Motorcycle Riders Foundation raised the question to the agency. The spokesperson indicated that motorcycles would absolutely need to be accounted for when developing requirements for self-driving vehicles, given their smaller size on the road.
Other motorcyclists fear a far-worst case scenario, if driverless cars prove successful on the road and significantly lower accident rates, is there a possibility where ALL vehicles on the road are required to have this technology? Would this result in opening up a world of self-driving motorcycles? Though far from likely, these are examples of the many questions being raised. Answers to these questions will largely be dependent on time and the success or failure of this new technology.
About Motorcycle Riders Foundation
The Motorcycle Riders Foundation (MRF) provides leadership at the federal level for states’ motorcyclists’ rights organizations as well as motorcycle clubs and individual riders. The MRF is chiefly concerned with issues at the national and international levels that impact the freedom and safety of American street motorcyclists. The MRF is committed to being a national advocate for the advancement of motorcycling and its associated lifestyle and works in conjunction with its partners to help educate elected officials and policymakers in Washington and beyond.