Jan 24, 2019

Autonomous Vehicles Could Enhance Public Safety in More Ways than You Think

Post by Freedom Partners

One of the most talked about benefits of autonomous vehicles is that they could decrease the number of accidents and collisions caused by humans.

While vehicle safety has improved over the years, 90 percent of car crashes are caused by human error. In 2017, 40,000 people died as a result of automobile accidents. Adding technology that automates traffic decisions into vehicle design would reduce those errors and save lives.

Many of those technological advancements already exist. However, there’s more work to be done before self-driving cars are common on America’s busiest roads.

Imagine, though, what society could be like once those technologies develop.

Visions of a Safer Future

Automobile-related deaths could be rare. Quality of life for the elderly and people with disabilities could be drastically improved, as they’d have increased mobility and independence. In the future, ambulances could even be able to drive themselves to the hospital as emergency medical technicians care for patients in the back.

That could drastically improve public safety for the 46 million people who live in America’s rural counties and currently rely on volunteer ambulance services. However, the pool of volunteer ambulance drivers able to serve a large, rural area is shallow.

“States and local communities have tried different ways to replace the labor that rural E.M.S. programs have lost,” an article from The New Yorker states. It goes on to note how Oregon offers a tax credit to volunteers in rural locations and some small-town businesses offer their employees paid time off for shifts on local ambulances. “But these are small measures, limited in scope.”

A self-driving ambulance could make all the difference.

But to arrive at a future where rural America has plentiful access to safe, autonomous emergency medical transportation, we must ensure today’s environment is conducive to technological development. That environment can only exist if federal legislation encourages — not stifles — innovation.

Congress Should Encourage Innovation

The last Congress missed the opportunity to pass the American Vision for Safer Transportation Through Advancement of Revolutionary Technologies (AV START) Act. The bill, along with Senate companion the SELF Drive Act, would have established the first, clear nationwide regulatory standards for autonomous vehicles.

When the opportunity arises this year, Congress should avoid making the same mistake. The government should have a clear, limited role in the development of autonomous vehicles, delineated by new legislation. A heavy-handed government approach to regulating driverless cars would obstruct the development of life-saving technology.

For some, there’s too much at stake to let that happen.