Future of Automobiles

It shouldn’t come as a surprise anymore that driverless cars could be the wave of the future.  With companies like Google, Uber and Tesla all developing their own self-driving features to include in cars they develop, manufacture or control, we can expect these life changing implementations in the very near future.  The science is settled that this will be a technology in the near future that we will have the option to utilize, but the jury is still out on how to regulate this new industry and how to ensure that other drivers are safe from robot cars.

We have seen as recently as this past weekend that when the technology these giant corporations are so passionately pursuing goes wrong, people are put at risk.  A driverless car being tested in Arizona this past weekend caused an accident, as have several other prototype vehicles across the country, including New York City, Chicago, and San Francisco. 

California OSHA Regulations

Understanding that these kinds of accidents are going to happen is the first step.  Once we can admit to each other that there are going to be malfunctions and people are going to be hurt, how do we regulate the industry?  Especially in California – is it up to Cal-OSHA to ensure that the occupants of these vehicles are safe and that regulations are in place to try and minimize accidents?  Should it be left up to the companies to ensure that their passengers are safe?  Should the federal government come in and regulate this emerging market?  These are all serious questions that need to be addressed.

Currently, Cal-OSHA regulates the taxi and ride-sharing industries by limiting the number of individuals who can be on the road, offering their services in one city.  This cuts down on congestion and also mitigates the risk of having too many taxies or drivers on the road at the same time.  The question remains, how is Cal-OSHA going to regulate an industry that no long requires humans to operate heavy machinery?  Who will be at fault if there is an accident?  The car manufacturer?  The company using the car as a taxi?  Or maybe the software development company that came up with the algorithm that controls driverless cars?  These are all crucial questions that the State of California government is going to have to ask themselves as this kind of technology is poised to disrupt a market that just recently went under a huge overhaul with the advent of Uber and Lyft.  New regulations were required to govern those applications, so one would assume that more legislation will be required for driverless vehicles.

Where Do We Go From Here?

If history repeats itself, we can learn from the past that this new industry will be heavily regulated in the state of California.  This may also put undue stress and high barriers of entry to those who hope to get a piece of the pie and build a business in the driverless car industry.  If we have learned anything in the past, it must be that more Cal-OSHA regulation typically makes doing business harder than it was before.  As with most other emerging industries in the state of California, time will tell what kind of Cal-OSHA regulation will be necessary to reign in an industry that has already been blamed for 1 death in the US.  But, to be fair, there has also been at least one live saved from a driverless Tesla automobile.

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