Does Google’s driverless car technology threaten established car manufacturers? They clearly seem to think so: Lobbyists of the Alliance of Automobile Manufactures have succeeded in throwing a wrench into the process of legalising autonomous cars in California. Because of their concerns about liability issues, the Senate Transportation Committee decided to route the bill to the Rules Committee where it will possibly be assigned to another panel for further review on liability. This could mean a significant delay for California’s bill and puts into question whether California could become a key state in driverless car introduction. It looks like Nevada will keep this crown for some time.
Google has repeatedly lamented that car manufacturers show little interest in driverless car technology. This is not surprising because driverless cars will greatly reduce the total number of cars needed. Given that private vehicles currently sit idle more than 95 percent of the time, the total number of cars needed could conceivably shrink by a factor of 10!
This action by the Alliance of Automobile Manufactures is only a harbinger of things to come. As driverless technology matures, the fight will get nastier. But the public can only benefit from driverless cars: Countless lives saved, lower total transportation costs and greater mobility for the elderly and young. Automakers need to prepare for this future now. Closing the eyes and trying to prevent the inevitable is the wrong strategy.