Is Illinois Ready For Driverless Car Technology?

Illinois — On Sept. 6, 2017 the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Self Drive Act, a bipartisan measure regulating autonomous vehicles on U.S. roads. The bill would allow automakers to apply for exemptions from certain transportation safety regulations, and permit up to 25,000 self-driving cars on the road in the first year, and up to 100,000 such vehicles within three years, according to Reuters.

And on Aug. 25, 2017 Gov. Bruce Rauner signed into law a bill that prohibits local measures to ban self-driving cars in Illinois.

But recently State lawmakers are hearing more of the pros and cons of allowing autonomous vehicles to operate on Illinois roads as a measure allowing testing in Illinois remains stalled in committee.

Several vehicle manufacturers testified Wednesday during a House transportation committee.

The manufacturers said Illinois should allow driverless car testing on Illinois roads. But not everyone is ready for that.

“Illinois is home to 24,000 trucking companies,” Matt Hart with the Illinois Trucking Association told Cherokee Tribune & Ledger News. “But there are thousands more from all over the country that operate in this state every day. Let’s be sure that Illinois is consistent with other states and with federal regulations on autonomous vehicles.”

Harry Lightsey, executive director of Emerging Technologies with General Motors, said after safety standards are fully tested, driverless cars will reduce vehicle fatalities.

Wednesday’s discussions also veered into some of the unanswered questions about the technology, including issues of liability. For instance, in case of a crash, who would be liable for injuries or fatalities, the owner or passenger or the manufacturer?

Josh Witkowski with motorcycle advocacy group ABATE of Illinois said a little-discussed aspect of driverless cars is what the future could hold for the freedom that driving and riding provides.

“Are we eventually going to reach a point where the government says you’re not allowed to ride your motorcycle anymore?” Witkowski told Cherokee Tribune & Ledger News. “You’re not allowed to drive yourself from Point A to Point B? Comments from the former chairman of GM indicate that.”

Although the Self Drive Act would allow car makers to apply for exemptions from some safety regulations that assume a human driver is operating the car, they would have to prove their autonomous vehicles are at least as safe as existing cars, according to Reuters. Automakers would also need to inform consumers and regulators about their vehicles’ cybersecurity and privacy protections, according to the Washington Post. The measure would pre-empt any state laws that dictate performance standards, although states could still regulate insurance, licensing, registration and safety inspections for the vehicles.

Witkowski said autonomous vehicle companies have yet to prove they are safe enough to operate on Illinois roads.

“My life should not be a field test for [autonomous vehicle] systems in Illinois,” he said.

No action was taken on a Rep. Mike Zalewski, D-Riverside bill to allow driverless cars on Illinois roads.

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