29 October 2016
NYC will most probably miss the chance to lead on autonomous cars. Current laws do not allow the city to test driverless vehicles on city streets in a safe and controlled way. Uber therefor points to Pittsburgh as a city model that New York should follow.
Self-driving in New York is not very likely soon due to red tape and old legislation preventing tech companies from testing them out on the city’s streets. During a New York City Council hearing Friday, experts finger pointed a 1971 law that requires drivers to keep one hand on the steering wheel at all times when the vehicle is in motion. The law has forced New York, with more than 2 million registered vehicles and 8 million people, to take a backseat to cities like Pittsburgh, Austin and Denver, which have sped ahead with driverless cars.
During the hearing, Uber pointed to Pittsburgh as a city model that New York should follow. Pittsburgh worked with Uber on a trial run of autonomous Ford Fusions. One of the first steps is letting vehicles collect New York-specific data. For example, what happens when a self-driving car passes by horses. “The infrastructure needs of Pittsburgh are going to be different from the infrastructure needs of a New York,” said Andre Greenwald, from Via, a ride-share startup.
New York’s is the “most complex street system in North America,” said Michael Replogle, deputy commissioner of the city’s Department of Transportation. He warned that if the city does not properly regulate autonomous vehicles, it would just create even more congestion and gridlock traffic. Replogle also raised concerns about the potential for “ghost vehicles,” in which owners would just continue to let their autonomous vehicles wander around the city to avoid parking. The city rakes in hundreds of millions of dollars in parking tickets annually, pulling in $565 million in 2015.
Also, taxi drivers in the Big Apple are concerned about what autonomous vehicles would mean for their jobs. Councilman Antonio Reynoso warned that the biggest battle to Self-driving in New York would not be about the most innovative technology or over legislation.
The struggle to self-driving in New York is no isolated case. Rather, it indicates of a country that is well behind its own tech industry. Up until this year, the US lacked a cohesive framework for autonomous vehicles on a nationwide scale. Federalism plays a part in that, as the US’ multi-state makeup leaves it difficult to apply rules to all 50 states when the states themselves have most of the say in regulatory matters.
News tags: Law, Uber