The future is filled with unknowns: How will the IoT (Internet of Things) change industries? How will the workforce adapt to more tasks being automated? How will urbanization affect smart cities? How will AVs (autonomous vehicles) impact road safety? The GHSA (Governors Highway Safety Assn.) is tackling this last question through a multi-pronged effort that includes published research, forming an expert panel, and developing a whitepaper and presentation to educate and inform traffic safety stakeholders.
Automated driving systems hold a lot of promise for the future of transportation. For those who can’t drive, AVs and automated driving systems could offer mobility. AVs and automated driving systems may also improve road safety by taking human error out of the equation. However, this relatively new technology raises many questions about how states and law enforcement will handle certain traffic safety situations. For instance, how will the law (and insurance companies) determine fault in accidents that involve automated or autonomous driving systems?
The GHSA says as the definitions of “driver” and “machine” blur, states mustn’t overlook the implications for motorists and law enforcement officers. In conjunction with State Farm, the association released a research report focused on bringing these implications to light. The Preparing for Automated Vehicles: Traffic Safety Issues for States report encourages states to encourage responsible testing and deployment of automated driving systems to help protect the public. The report also outlines suggested traffic laws that accommodate testing and deployment of these systems.
Law enforcement issues to consider include officers’ ability to identify AVs and vehicles using automated driving systems, especially during the years to come, when vehicles with varied levels of automation will be sharing the road. Another issue may be how crash-response procedures will change when AVs rule the road. The use of system data from autonomous vehicles and automated driving systems also needs to be considered. Should law enforcement have access to this data? How about crash investigators? Insurance companies?
The most current step in the GHSA’s effort is set to take place this week. On May 8, the association is set to convene a panel of experts in Arlington, Va., to consider issues related to AVs and automated driving systems and provide recommendations for state highway safety agencies, law enforcement, and other safety advocates. Experts will hail from the GHSA itself, as well the federal government, the automotive and technology industries, criminal justice organizations, and national safety groups.
Big change is coming to U.S. roadways as vehicles become more automated and AV testing, development, and deployment ramp up. Consumer buy-in will be important, and current attitudes toward automated driving systems and driverless technologies are mixed. In the future, these systems may prompt a paradigm shift in transportation toward shared mobility.
Consumers aren’t the only ones who will need to adapt. Law enforcement officers, alongside judges and others responsible for enforcing traffic laws or determining liability in road accidents, will need to adjust as well. The GHSA’s efforts to prepare these folks and all other stakeholders, including the public, are much needed.
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