The day US Congress broke a driverless car

One of the biggest hurdles facing driverless cars in the future isn’t the software that figures out how to make it a safe experience, or the hardware sensors that provide the eyes and ears for said firmware backdrop, or even the companies fighting to be first to market with a true autonomous vehicle, no, it’s all about the politicians. As it stands, current laws don’t really account for vehicles without a driver. There’s issues of blame to be considered in the case of an accident and issues with insurance, road tax and a lot of other potential moral and legal headaches that need to be figured out before we’ll get the driver-less cars of the future.

These sorts of headaches aren’t always once that legislators and law makers really want to deal with, but some companies are taking them along for the ride anyway. However last week’s demo of Carnegie Mellon University’s driverless cars didn’t go well at all.

Preparing the modified 2011 Cadillac SRX for several months before hand, researchers took the car to Washington DC last Tuesday to see what several congressmen and women would think of it and somehow, the legislators managed to break it. While the finer pointers of how the day went aren’t clear, as Carnegie isn’t being drawn on who or what actually caused the breakdown, we do know for a fact that it stopped working.

It’s been rumoured that someone in the car hit the emergency stop switch, which may have led to faults occurring. All we know for sure, is that the car was working fine early Tuesday afternoon, in what was supposed to be the first day of testing, with press, as well as law makers taking a spin it it. However by half two it became clear that a problem with the vehicle was going to shelve any plans for the rest of the day.

Carnegie Mellon first announced the driverless car in 2013

Carnegie Mellon first announced the driverless car in 2013

It was hoped that the car would be back working by Wednesday so that others could have a delayed go in it, but unfortunately that was not to be and the testing had to be put on hold until a future outing.

However one positive note did come from the whole thing. House Transportation and Infrastructure committee chairman Bill Shuster gave the car a big thumbs up and said he wanted others to try it: “I want other members of Congress to be able to ride in the vehicle, because I think it’s so important to see the technology in action,” he said. “This innovation is coming. The technology, the future, is coming to our streets and to our highways of America in this autonomous vehicle.”

Comments by the general public have been generally quite disparaging of the members of congress, with many suggesting that if you’re building an automatic car, it needs to be idiot proof. Clearly, they said, it isn’t.

[Thanks Yahoo]


    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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