2020 has been a year of uncertainty and as the U.S. heads into 2021 under President-elect Joe Biden, the next four years could prove crucial to the country’s ability to not only stay competitive in the autonomous vehicle race, but also pave the way for safer roadways.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. is more attuned to safety than ever before. And as we prioritize the safety of our loved ones, it’s easy to forget that road traffic injuries are the leading cause of death for children and young adults aged 5-29 and the eighth leading cause of deaths globally.
As the world looks to technological solutions to bolster the efficiency and safety of their communities, the U.S. will need to prioritize AV regulation on the federal level and embrace technological collaboration on an international level.
Though the country cannot fully anticipate what to expect under a Biden presidency, there is no doubt that his administration will prioritize infrastructure where possible.
With that in mind, his existing plan underscores the importance of getting electric vehicles on the road sooner rather than later, as these cars will result in lower net carbon emissions. Given that the high majority of AVs and ADAS (advanced driver-assistance systems) vehicles will be electrically powered, now is the time to get ahead of regulatory concerns and empower these vehicles to get on the roads.
The U.S. Department of Transportation has indicated a readiness to establish federal regulations for ADAS vehicles and driverless cars. In early November, DOT began soliciting public comments to standardize safety protocols for driverless vehicles. With DOT’s recent progress in the space, the Biden Admin. is uniquely poised to make a more significant impact over the next four years.
Though individual U.S. states have been leading the charge on regulations, it is ridiculous that cross-country test cars still need to pull over to change license plates when crossing state lines.
Recognizing that 95% of all road accidents are caused by human error, if Biden truly takes the health and safety of American citizens seriously, he needs to prioritize setting the nation on the track to a driverless future by establishing federal regulatory standards and empowering existing ADAS technology to thrive.
Where other industries have been hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic, China has viewed the health crisis as a reason to focus on driverless vehicles more than ever before.
Simply put, driverless transportation and delivery would provide opportunities to reduce infection transmission during the current pandemic and during any future health crises. Closer to that point, China more readily recognizes driverless vehicles ultimately will be the safest form of transport regardless of the pandemic.
According to a recent study from Deloitte, Chinese consumers are considerably more accepting of driverless transport than their American counterparts, with only 35% of Chinese participants stating they do not think self-driving cars are safe compared with 48% of Americans.
If the U.S. plans to stay competitive in the AV industry, it is critical that the country has access to the Chinese market. Putting aside the trade wars of the current administration, if we want to guarantee a faster road to autonomous driving, we need to take industrial and scientific collaboration seriously.
Pär-Olof Johannesson (left) is CEO of TerraNet, a designer and developer of collision-warning software and algorithms for advanced driver-assistance systems and driverless fleets.