In an attempt to legislate the testing and ultimately the impending regular use of self-driving vehicles, a lot of government entities are weighing in, from Congress to individual states and even some cities.
It prompted attorney Jennifer Dukarski to ask whether the law can keep up with technology.
“It usually doesn’t,” she said, answering her own question.
Dukarski was among participants at a session titled “Will Your Self-Driving Vehicle Need a License?” at the Center for Automotive Research’s annual Management Briefing Seminars.
In one way or another, 36 states have become involved in overseeing autonomous vehicle testing, particularly on public roads.
There are federal agency guidelines on matters such as whether self-driving cars will still need steering wheels.
Congress is considering the so-called Autonomous Vehicle START Act, a pending initiative to centralize rules for testing and then deploying self-driving vehicles.
“Have any of these laws changed anything that is happening on the ground as automakers and others perfect their prototypes?” asked session moderator Eric Paul Dennis, a CAR analyst.
“Not really,” said panelist Brian Daugherty, chief technology officer for the Motor and Equipment Manufacturers Association.
Dukarski called the pending federal legislation “too slow. It’s not going to get you there.” A goal of the bill is to avoid a patchwork of state and local laws on self-driving cars.
Basically, the bill tells states and cities, “You don’t have to do this, we already have,” said fellow panelist Bryant Walker Smith.
“States and cities are creating regimes that are so restrictive,” said Dukarski of the Butzel Long law firm in Ann Arbor, MI. She also holds an engineering degree. “In my state, the little city of Canton is creating its own regulatory framework of how and when autonomous vehicles can operate in town.”
Overreaching government reaction to new technology is old news, said Smith, a law professor at the University of South Carolina. He also is an engineer and heads a task force on on-road autonomous vehicle standards.
He noted that the island of Nantucket, MA, banned automobiles in their early days.