Alphabet’s Waymo is launching a driverless taxi service in Phoenix in the next three months — and it’s open to the public. But due to the limited regulations surrounding self-driving cars, many critics argue that more regulations are needed to ensure the safety of these vehicles before they roll out for public and commercial use. Ars Technica reports: If a company wants to sell a new airplane or medical device, it must undergo an extensive process to prove to federal regulators that it’s safe. Currently, there’s no comparable requirement for self-driving cars. Federal and state laws allow Waymo to introduce fully self-driving cars onto public streets in Arizona without any formal approval process. That’s not an oversight. It represents a bipartisan consensus in Washington that strict regulation of self-driving cars would do more harm than good.
Mary “Missy” Cummings, an engineering professor at Duke, agrees. “I don’t think there should be any driverless cars on the road,” she tells Ars. “I think it’s unconscionable that no one is stipulating that testing needs to be done before they’re put on the road.” But so far these advocates’ demands have fallen on deaf ears. Partly that’s because federal regulators don’t want to slow the introduction of a technology that could save a lot of lives in the long run. Partly it’s because they believe that liability concerns give companies a strong enough incentive to behave responsibly. And partly it’s because no one is sure how to regulate self-driving cars effectively. When it comes to driverless cars, “there’s no consensus on what it means to be safe or how we go about proving that,” says Bryant Walker Smith, a legal scholar at the University of South Carolina.
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