By Jon LeSage, contributing editor, Dealer Digest Daily
- The state of Oregon may be balking at the prospect of driverless cars coming to its roads. While neighboring states like California and Nevada are moving full-steam ahead, a legislative bill in Oregon has stalled out.
- House Bill 2428 sought to establish a process for allow the operation of autonomous vehicles in Oregon – it died in committee.
- Reasons it fizzled out – more fear of robo-cars than intrigue with the technology’s promise to deal with several of the state’s problems. Rep. Cliff Bentz, R-Ontario, is concerned that in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing, driverless cars could be used as “drones” to deliver armed bombs for terrorists.
- The Oregon Department of Transportation may instead move forward with a partially-automated connected car study – the agency would be more supportive of this than going straight into a driverless car program. That’s where some of the support for the bill faded.
- Jerri Bohard, administrator of ODOT’s Transportation Development Division, said the agency’s study, expected to be completed within the next two years, could be used as a “bridge” to eventually licensing driverless vehicles such as the .
- Some in the state legislature are supportive of the ODOT test program – lessons can be learned that could set necessary guidelines for driverless cars to later be adopted.
- This was a big topic at the 2013 Society of Automotive Engineers Word Congress in Detroit. Experts there predicted that driverless cars will be commonly seen on roads by 2025.
- Christian Schumacher, head of advanced driver assistance systems for Continental, talked about a driverless car his company is testing that clocked more than 10,000 miles and is licensed in Nevada.
- Schumacher thinks partially automated cars will on roads in significant numbers by 2016, more highly automated versions by 2020, and driverless by 2025.
- Cars on the road today already have various advanced automated technologies that kick in automatically for crash avoidance and safety, and all of the connected car systems will be part of the future driverless car infrastructure.
- Fear of robotics, loss of privacy, and destination of choice are in the background during these debates. Fascination and enthusiasm for advanced, integrated technology are on the other side of the debate, along with desire for freedom of choice while traveling in a car.
- Oregon overall is known for being a libertarian state – it was not surprising to see doctor-assisted suicide made legal. Some of the block so far experienced in the state legislature may have something to do with that “get big brother off my back” sensibility. But it won’t be the only state having to deal with issue – those dealing safety, traffic congestion, and fuel efficiency have to answer these questions.