America is ready for driverless cars

A new survey out of Fayette county, Pennsylvania USA, reveals that three quarters of residents quizzed on the matter, would be interested in trying out an autonomous car, with many of them willing to buy one if it became available at a price they could afford. More than that though, local law makers are onboard with the idea, with the local county commission chairman, Steve Brown, pushing for his local area to be used for the first major trial of the technology.

Speaking with 11Alive, Mr Brown said that we’ve had autopilot in aircraft for years, so it was only a matter of time before it was made available in cars too, which thanks to their reliance on grip and inability to move vertically made them far more of a challenge for automated systems.

Why does he believe that Fayette county would make for a good starting point for testing autonomous vehicles though? Because his area isn’t quite as built up as other major parts of the state, but it does have a good road network and a reasonable sized population (in the region of 136,000).

“We would be a laboratory not only for doing the technology end of it, but also for the regulatory end of it because the Federal Highway Administration and Georgia DOT are still trying to figure out how to regulate this,” he said.

Maybe we'll soon see a few hundred of these in Fayette county

Maybe we’ll soon see a few hundred of these in Fayette county

Of course running a test scheme in such an area would likely create jobs for maintenance and future developments. Potentially there’s a lot of money to invest in such a scheme, and the locals would be spending decent chunks of their own money to buy the autonomous cars, so it would get money moving in the local area.

Most people there are onboard with the idea of launching a pilot scheme in their area, with three out of every four people asked giving it the go ahead, but some people weren’t quite so convinced. There was some concern over whether the technology was safe and could potentially lead to more accidents, especially if there isn’t someone in the vehicle at the time of a malfunction.

Whether Fayette gets the pilot scheme or not though, may depend not on law makers or the citizens, but on the competition. Johnson County in Iowa also made a public declaration of interest in taking on the pilot scheme, so there may be a bit of a battle to see who gets it first.

Autonomous cars have come on apace in recent years, with many companies introducing stop gap features like lane control, which stops you drifting out of lane on a motorway, and automatic braking, that kicks in in the event of cars infront of you stopping suddenly. However Google looks likely to beat most manufacturers to the punch, having already tested its own automatic vehicles over thousands of miles of road with very few hiccups.

Ultimately it’s thought that the only thing holding the industry back at the moment, is figuring out its legal ramifications. Who is responsible for the car if no one is driving? The car maker?

    Jon Martindale

    Jon Martindale is an English author and journalist, who's written for a number of high-profile technology news outlets, covering everything from the latest hardware and software releases, to hacking scandals and online activism.

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