We Might Finally Be Getting Global Self-Driving Standards

Illustration for article titled We Might Finally Be Getting Global Self-Driving Standards
Photo: HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP (Getty Images)

There’s been something of multiple discovery-esque situation in the self-driving car world: Tons of different manufacturers are all competing to refine autonomous technology, often in wildly different ways. That means we have a lot of variable ways of understanding and implementing the self-driving challenge. The problem is, regulators have lagged behind.

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I get it. It can be tough to place a set of rules on a technology that’s still in its earliest forms. How do you know that regulation you set isn’t going to turn out to be a crucial element of the tech? It’s hard to tell so early on.

The World Economic Forum, though, has decided to basically provide an easily-digestible understanding of self-driving tech to help regulators understand what’s going on. That way, you don’t have to be an expert in autonomy, but you can made educated rules, temper your expectations, and create a global framework that regulates how autonomous cars work. So, the WEF crafted the Safe Driving Initiative. From its release:

Broadly, the Safe Drive Initiative is seeks to improve regulators’ decision-making abilities on automated vehicle technologies. In this paper, the World Economic Forum offers a holistic review of the leading approaches to AV policy, to identify and highlight the most effective techniques in these approaches in order to facilitate the testing and development of AVs. Following this review, we identify gaps that we believe can be addressed through a graduated, scenario-based approach developed in partnership with our multistakeholder Automotive and Autonomous Mobility community.

The paper makes a lot of really interesting observations:

  • In the US, a lack of a federal autonomous framework could result in state-by-state regulations, which are not ideal for, y’know, broadly selling cars.
  • A strong national AV policy can help move tech development forward at a rapid clip.
  • Local governments will also require flexibility to determine what works regionally. Philadelphia will likely need a very different AV infrastructure compared to, say, El Paso.
  • That said, the basic framework enables those local regulations to be efficiently created. It’s like the basic driver’s ed course that you can then adapt to fit your local roads.

The WEF hasn’t provided the exact regulatory framework that should be adopted, but it’s one hell of a good start.

Weekends at Jalopnik. Managing editor at A Girl's Guide to Cars. Lead IndyCar writer and assistant editor at Frontstretch. Novelist. Motorsport fanatic.

DISCUSSION

We’re gonna wait until everyone else comes up with some rules, then use the fact that, despite our own deliberate inactivity, it was developed by other countries as a political tool to rile a fresh generation of xenophobic assholes for political gain. After all, why should any politician risk pissing off a home pressure group when they can sit on their hands and blame everyone else instead? That is how America does things in this century.