Car Wars -- Bumps in the Road to Self-Driving Future

Automakers have plenty on their plates as they chase the promise of bringing autonomous vehicles to the highways and byways of the country.

Joao-Pierre S. Ruth, Senior Editor

September 27, 2023

At a Glance

  • Gov. Newsom Vetoes Bill on Autonomous Trucks
  • Elon Musk Promised Self-Driving Cars for a Decade
  • Science Fiction Fears Differ from Real-World Autonomous Vehicle Concerns

At the end of last week, California Governor Gavin Newsom vetoed a bill that sought to require having a person onboard self-driving trucks above 10,000 pounds when they run on public roads. The bill was backed by truckers and their union, who brought up concerns about possible job losses and the potential risks of letting automated systems take the wheel, alone, in big, heavy vehicles barreling down the road.

To be clear, no wants to see this kind of tech fail and possibly harm human beings or property. Yet, there are opposing forces that want fully automated vehicles everywhere versus those who want this innovation to slow down.

In science fiction, concerns about self-driving cars often stem from these vehicles behaving in unwanted ways, putting passengers and pedestrians at risk. For example, in the movie “Logan,” some automated, driverless trucks ran the main characters off the road and then continued to zip along the highway.

Meanwhile, the real world continues to be presented with slow-moving dreams about self-driving cars from the likes of Elon Musk, who has spent a decade promising over and over that autonomous cars were just one year away.

Even if it will be a while before the technology becomes truly ubiquitous, policymakers are trying to sort out what kinds of guardrails need to be in place as this eventually gains momentum. For his part, Newsom cited existing California regulations he believed were sufficient policy, for now, to oversee this new stretch of road.

Related:25 Major Car Brands Flunk Data Privacy Review

In addition to truckers, others have sought to pump the brakes on, or to outright stop, the acceleration of self-driving vehicles. Not everyone is sold on the idea of allowing vehicles without drivers on the street in growing numbers. Just this summer, activists in San Francisco tried to curb the spread of autonomous cars on their streets by using traffic cones to essentially trick the cars into stopping and shutting down.

Self-driving vehicles have been in development, in one form or another, for decades now. Tropes in science fiction about self-driving cars go back even further. Either for comedic effect or to elevate the drama of a scene, science fiction loves to depict automated vehicles getting into mischief and mayhem.

Forgive the pun, but it is time to buckle up as DOS Won't Hunt talks about the gridlock that grips autonomous vehicles, and how reality might be safer than the fears science fiction raises about this technology.

Listen to the full podcast here

About the Author(s)

Joao-Pierre S. Ruth

Senior Editor

Joao-Pierre S. Ruth covers tech policy, including ethics, privacy, legislation, and risk; fintech; code strategy; and cloud & edge computing for InformationWeek. He has been a journalist for more than 25 years, reporting on business and technology first in New Jersey, then covering the New York tech startup community, and later as a freelancer for such outlets as TheStreet, Investopedia, and Street Fight. Follow him on Twitter: @jpruth.

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