Not too long ago, driverless cars sounded like something out of a space age sci-fi movie. But not any more. If you have ever used Google Maps ‘street view’, then you have looked at pictures taken by a camera that was mounted onto a driverless car. In fact, Uber has even begun a pilot program, where driverless cars are being used to transport Uber riders around in Pittsburg. But what does this have to do with drunk driving, you wonder? As it turns out – a lot!
According to Google, it is entirely within the realm of possibility that self-driving cars could be on the road as mainstream vehicles within as little as 5 years. Impossible, you say? Not really. But while there are many reasons why the multi-billion dollar corporation thinks this would be a good thing, the reason that interests us most are the ones that have a direct impact on drunk driving.
Despite the vast number of safe-driving campaigns hosted every law by law enforcement, awareness programs in schools, ride-sharing programs and constant emphasis on designated drivers, almost 10,000 people die every year in alcohol related car crashes. So perhaps driverless cars are the answer. One Michigan Senator certainly thinks so.
Last month in August, Republican state senator Mike Kowall introduced a bill that would make it legal for driverless vehicles, also known as autonomous cars, to drive around in Michigan. The reason, Kowall says, is because he wants to “plant a flag here” in the Mitten state. This bill, he says, will ensure that the new and developing autonomous vehicle technology that is already happening here, would stay centered in Michigan. After all, we are the the Auto Capital of the World!
According to the bill, driverless cars could be purchased by the public as soon as they are available for sale. It also states that they would be allowed on all roads in Michigan, including interstate highways. Additionally, if an autonomous vehicle is involved in a crash, the automaker who created it would be held liable for the damage. Any third-party components makers that equips a standard car with an aftermarket autonomous system will be required to assume the risk if that vehicle is involved in an accident.
Currently, Michigan is only one of seven states in the US that has laws allowing the testing of autonomous cars. But this bill, if passed into law, would allow us to join the ranks of those elite few, so far only California, Florida and Nevada, who allow driverless cars on the road for reasons beyond testing. Later this year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration plans to release introductory guidelines which would serve as directions for states in the process of drafting laws allowing self-driving cars on public roads
In the words of Senate Majority Floor Leader Kowall, “I see this as the equivalent of the race to space. We can think of these Senate bills as one small step for Lansing, one giant leap for driverless mankind. We’re moving into the next century, ladies and gentlemen!” So buckle up folks, here’s to the future!