Humans have always played an important role in the safety of the nation’s roads and they will continue to for many years, even during the transition to fully autonomous vehicles (AVs). States, too, can do their part to prepare as driverless car technology is developed and deployed.
Those are the highlights of a new report that encourages states to not overlook the people behind the wheel.
“Imperfect human drivers aren’t disappearing anytime soon and even with self-driving technology, they will still be in a position to cause crashes, deaths, and injuries on our roads,” Jonathan Adkins, executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association, said in a statement. “As autonomous vehicle technology advances, states still must invest in programs to prioritize safe travel behavior.”
“Preparing for Autonomous Vehicles: Traffic Safety Issues for States,” released earlier this month by the nonprofit safety organization that represents state highway safety offices, found that while self-driving technology has tremendous potential to reduce crashes, save lives and increase mobility, there is the need to focus on safe human choices as driverless vehicles proliferate.
“Human operators will still exert significant control,” for the foreseeable future, the report noted, which identified a number of important behavioral safety risks for drivers who use the technology, including distraction and inattention.
A survey of research aggregated for the report found that many consumers were skeptical about the safety benefits of AVs, but that long-term, the technology has the potential to operate “better than humans.”
The report made a series of recommendations to states on a range of issues related to the safe and practical deployment of AV technology that include:
— educating the public about how to use and interact with driverless vehicles on shared roads
— licensing drivers so they can take control if needed
–updating traffic laws
— and establishing and improving enforcement training and policies.
The report was authored by Dr. Jim Hedlund, a former senior official with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, developed with input from an advisory panel of experts, and funded by State Farm.
The full report can be viewed here.