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Autonomous Vehicles Blog - Driving the Future

Transit agencies are poised to reap many benefits by implementing autonomous vehicle technology, but numerous barriers to implementation exist. At least that’s what the Federal Transit Authority says in its 2018 Strategic Transit Automation Research Plan (the “STAR Plan”).

Is Amazon becoming a car company? Not quite, but it may become the next big player in autonomous driving. As reported in several news articles like Forbes and The Street, Amazon has been heavily investing in autonomous vehicle technology to both save money and make money.

Eric Lazzari needed to get across downtown for a meeting and decided to use an electric scooter, according to The Denver Post. He knew the law, and was properly operating the e-scooter on the sidewalk. While stopped at an intersection, an angry pedestrian approached him, told him scooters didn’t belong on the sidewalk, and smacked him in the back of the head.

A recent study conducted by the National Highway Transportation Safety Association (NHSTA) attributes 94 percent of serious automobile crashes to human error. Based on this key fact, the NHSTA is hopeful that autonomous vehicles will considerably reduce the number of accidents and associated damages. The bad news is that determining who is at fault when AV accidents occur may prove to be a difficult task. Traditionally, accident liability has focused on the actions of the driver. With the advent of AVs, however, liability and risk will likely shift to manufacturers, dealerships, software programmers, relevant third-party suppliers, and the company in charge of training AV operators.

Along with the numerous benefits that the autonomous vehicle revolution promises come real concerns over the potential impact on jobs. That is why the Economics and Statistics Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce released a report titled The Employment Impact of Autonomous Vehicles, in which it hoped to identify the occupations most likely to be directly affected by the widespread business adoption of autonomous vehicles on public roads.

As we discussed previously on this blog, in recent years public policy officials and others have floated proposals to deal with automation via taxation – either a tax directly on “robots” themselves or a tax on capital gains that companies achieve through the use of automated technology.

When a group of four Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives released a report on September 5 titled The Future of Work, Wages, and Labor, they hoped to identify issues facing the American worker in an economy that is increasingly being poked, prodded, and transformed by new technologies, automation, and corporate consolidation of power. The scope of the report is far-reaching and ambitious, and signals potential policy goals and a host of new issues for employers should the Democrats take control of the House or the Senate—or both—in the future.

While many are aware testing of autonomous vehicles (AVs) is currently under way in states like California, Nevada, and Arizona, few realize Florida has created a legal framework to attract companies to build and test AV technology.

For those who live in large cities, the transformation of the automotive industry to a new era of autonomous vehicles and computer-aided transportation has already begun. By performing a quick search on YouTube, you can watch video of the first riders on driverless buses in Las Vegas and Detroit. In Columbus, Ohio, a low-speed driverless shuttle will soon begin operating on a specific downtown route.

Congress recently took action that would otherwise make it seem as if it is apprehensive of the robotic revolution and perhaps even hesitant to support AV initiatives in the near future. Late last month, the Senate approved an appropriations package that specifically blocked government funding for the development of “beerbots” – automated bartenders that mix and serve drinks without the need for human intervention. HR 6157 funds many federal agencies and provides funding for a number of congressional pet projects, but thanks to an amendment included by Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and approved by the Senate, the appropriations bill prohibits the Defense Department from spending money on “the development of a beerbot or other robot bartender.” According to Bloomberg’s Tyrone Richardson, this provision was included to halt the flow of government research money on an MIT robot bartender development program. If the government is concerned about automated drink delivery systems steering jobs from human bartenders and cocktail servers, does this spell trouble for government funding of AV initiatives?

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