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The Governor Of Washington State Wants Self-Driving Cars On The Road Soon

June 19, 2017

Jay Inslee, the Governor of the Washington State believes that autonomous automobiles should be on the road sooner rather than later. The governor signed an executive order in early June 2017, declaring that it is the policy of Washington to use autonomous technology to eradicate human error when driving. The governor wants testing to begin before the summer is over on both driverless and human back up versions of autonomous vehicles. 

The governor has an altruistic motivation for establishing a pathway toward autonomous driving. In the executive order, the he recites that 94 percent of all car accidents involve human error and that autonomous cars necessarily remove human error from the equation. The governor also explains his opinion that technology has developed to the point where Washington State should eagerly deploy the technology. Additionally, he says that economic growth would be expected through the proliferation of autonomous vehicles, along with scientific research and further technological advancements. In addition, he expounds on his interest in reducing harm to his constituents because autonomous vehicles will reduce auto accidents resulting in fewer deaths, fewer injuries, and less property damage. The governor expects to see societal benefits such as greater mobility for the elderly and physically disabled all while combating climate change.

After setting forth the public policy of the state, the governor mandated that testing was to begin. Safety is a priority. Tests must be conducted with a human ready to overtake control of the vehicle should the situation warrant it. Vehicle manufacturers must register their vehicles and provide proof of insurance or financial responsibility. One operating requirement can also be found in the governor's executive order. Autonomous cars must bring themselves to a stop in the event a computer system fails.

Studies from California show that the technology is far from foolproof, despite Governor Inslee's claim to the contrary. California has gathered information about the testing of autonomous cars. According to California's data, autonomous cars "cede" or give control back to the human operator frequently. Autonomous vehicle manufacturers call this procedure "disengagement." The overall frequency of disengagement incidents has declined. However, manufacturers have not eradicated the problem completely and the results differ from manufacturer to manufacturer.

Eliminating disengagements must be the first priority of autonomous vehicle manufacturers. Cars that rely on the disengagement procedure can become loose cannons if allowed on the roads. A review of some of the disengagement reports suggests that self-driving cars will turn the driving over to the human operator in numerous circumstances. Many of those circumstances include dangerous situations where the loss of life or infliction of serious injury is a possibility. During the testing procedure, a human back-up driver had one hand on the steering wheel and the other on a toggle switch that changed the input from autonomous to human back-up. Human nature suggests, and the Governor alluded to this, that the human back-up who is not testing the vehicle may fail to pay attention and not respond to the vehicle's alert that the human must take control over before it is too late.

Additional testing must be done and projects should not be rushed to completion without exhaustive testing and analysis.

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Category: Auto Accidents

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