One strategy the state government can exercise is attracting autonomous vehicle research and development to Georgia. This would entail the use of local roads in low-traffic areas for controlled testing by manufacturers. This testing would help our state officials develop proper regulations and could attract new jobs connected with the burgeoning new technology.
Liability — determining whether the driver or autonomous vehicle manufacturer would be at fault in an accident — was an important issue for the House study committee. Currently, there is no answer, because the technological environment has not evolved far enough to make a determination. Controlled testing does not pose a liability challenge, as both the driver and vehicle would be the responsibility of the manufacturer. Creating opportunity for such testing in Georgia is a good idea.
I wholeheartedly agree with the study committee that any regulations created by the state should be flexible and allow for evolution of the technology. Several states have already failed on that front.
Our transportation infrastructure will be compromised if we cannot keep it good repair. That requires precious funding. If state officials and transportation planners recognize the benefits of autonomous vehicles early, they could save us from making inappropriate transportation investments in future years.
Certainly, we must ensure we can pay for future maintenance and operation of our current transit infrastructure, a fuzzy picture now at best. Paying attention to a future with autonomous vehicles and the new disruptive uses they will create could prevent us from going the way of the Rust Belt states.
No one is investing in “land lines” when most everyone is advancing to smart phones. Likewise, let’s take a hard look at this new transportation technology before we fall for outmoded heavy rail in low-density suburban Atlanta.
Steve Brown is a Fayette County commissioner and member of the Transportation Leadership Coalition.