Autonomous Cars Have a Clearer Path in Europe Than in America

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【Summary】Countries, like Europe, Germany, and South Korea, that have figured out the legislative parts of autonomous vehicles are outpacing the United States when it comes to putting the technology into the hands of consumers.

Original Vineeth Joel Patel    May 21, 2018 9:00 AM PT
Autonomous Cars Have a Clearer Path in Europe Than in America

The U.S. government is still working on finalizing its plan to keep autonomous cars in check on the road. Other countries, like Britain, South Korea, Germany, and Singapore have already figured things out. In the aforementioned countries, self-driving cars, having the backing of the government to test on public roads, which make them one step closer to actually being sold to consumers. That's not the case in the United States. 

As Bloomberg reports in a lengthy piece, those countries have put themselves on a better path than the U.S. when it comes to the adoption of driverless vehicles. In America, the absence of a nationwide piece of legislation that clearly outlines where and who can test autonomous vehicles is making it difficult for automakers and companies to come out with new technology, claims the outlet. 

Automakers and tech companies are pouring billions of dollars into perfecting and developing autonomous systems with the end goal of taking drivers completely out of the equation with a Level 5 car. If that's the goal, the United States is hampering companies from letting them reach it. The recent incidents involving autonomous vehicles proves that the technology is in its infancy and desperately needs regulations. 

A fatal accident in Arizona was followed shortly after by a fatal incident involving a Tesla and a barrier on a highway. Together, those issues show that problems lie with the technology and with drivers, too. Different countries, though, are handling things differently. Asian countries, as Bloomberg points out, are aggressive in allowing companies to test autonomous cars on public roads. 

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What Other Countries Are Doing Around The World 

Breaking it down by country, the outlet states that Britain has allowed four cities to be prime candidates for companies to test their vehicles in. Israel and France allow cars to test by a case-by-case basis. Germany has created the most well-rounded legislation where it allows companies to test vehicles with their hands off of the wheels. But it holds every automaker responsible for any accidents that occur. The country also requires companies to have ethical principles built into their software that puts the lives of humans and animals over property.

Bloomberg calls South Korea the "silent leader," as it plans to have autonomous vehicles on sale for consumers to purchase by 2020. Companies in the country can test on 200 miles of public roads and even has plans to build a test circuit, which is set to open later this year. 

"Initially our impression is they are being relatively laggards, but in reality they are actually doing a lot," said Alejandro Zamorano, a San Francisco-based Bloomberg analyst. 

While we don't hear a lot of news about autonomous vehicles in Singapore, the country is taking an aggressive stance on driverless cars to help combat its notorious traffic woes. Companies were allowed to start testing machines in 2015. It's also looking into putting self-driving buses onto public roads. 

While all of these countries are in a good place to let autonomous vehicles shine, China is reportedly the one that's in the best place. The country drafted a set of guidelines on autonomous-vehicle testing and is apparently working on a final version that will be put into place shortly. China, as the outlet states, wants to have 30 million vehicles on the road with some kind of autonomous capability within the next 10 years. This is spurred everyone from giant companies to small ones to look into developing self-driving tech.

Bloomberg believes that countries in North America could benefit from following China's footsteps and allowing provincial authorities to manage tests. At the moment, only 17 states and two provinces in Canada allow for driverless testing on public roads. 

"The U.S. and Canada have basically separated jurisdictions between the federal government and the states or provinces," said Zamorano. "It's actually harmful to test autonomous vehicles because there's no clarity on who's allowed to do what." 

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America's Stance Is Confusing For Companies

The stance the U.S. government has taken on autonomous vehicles is confusing to companies, as it allows for some testing in specific states, but none in others. California and Arizona are the two most noteworthy states that allow for various types of testing. But there are still 18 states that haven't enacted any laws when it comes to the testing of self-driving vehicles. 

While a handful of other countries have things set in stone, the U.S. is still working on getting through some of the major kinks. The U.S. Autonomous Vehicle Start Act, which is currently in the U.S. Senate, could allow for testing throughout the entire nation. But lawmakers are still working on what happens in the case of an accident. Bloomberg states that arbitration, when a victim couldn't participate in a class-action lawsuit against a company in the case of an accident, is a major point of contention for lawmakers.

The Act, in its current form, also doesn't have any plans to change safety standards for cars. That has confused some organizations that are calling for national safety ratings for self-driving vehicles to ensure that other drivers on the road are safe. 

There's no end in site for the Act, which is a bad thing, as the lack of a nationwide form of legislation is, as Bloomberg states, forcing companies to focus on ensuring their meeting various regulations that range from state to state instead of working on the actual technology. The end result could be the mass adoption of autonomous technology around the world, while it lags behind in the U.S. 

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