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Illinois Allows Testing for Autonomous Cars

Self-driving cars will soon be on the roads of Illinois. Many are excited to move forward and see how the new technology will be benefit their lives. However, skepticism remains for many lawmakers. They worry about liability if the self-driving cars malfunctioned and caused accidents. Recently, an accident in Arizona involved an Uber self-driving car.

Autonomous Cars Executive Order

The Illinois Department of Transportation, through an executive order from Governor Bruce Rauner, can allow for testing of autonomous (self-driving) cars on the roads of Illinois. The executive order just allows testing of the cars. Rauner stated that these cars the “future”. He predicted they will permanently change roadways in the next five to 10 years.

Beginning this winter, the testing phase will begin, but a driver remains behind the wheel. Gov. Rauner said in a statement, “Working without public and private partners, we can make our roads safer, save lives, attract investment and create new high-tech jobs throughout the state.” Proponents of autonomous vehicles promotes the technology through safety, fuel efficiency and increased access to transportation, especially for the elderly and people with disabilities.

According to the governor’s statement, the automated vehicle industry expects to generate $800 billion annually nationwide by 2050. This includes creation of jobs and fuel saving. The technology hopes to reduce the number of car crashes by vehicle by 94 percent due to human error. The Autonomous Illinois program will connect interested universities, research institutions and other technology partners to test the techonology.

Liability Issue Questions Surround Autonomous Cars

Although lawmakers are showing support for the autonomous vehicle testing, they also question the liability issue in case of collision. According to the executive order, the vehicles will be covered by insurance or other type of financial responsibility but it still doesn’t make it clear whether the person in the driver-less vehicle is liable for the accidents.

Alderman Edward Burke raised concerns when he had attempted to ban the introduction of self-driving cars. He fears that hackers or terrorists could infiltrate the technology for malicious uses. Burke also directed concerns towards the job losses that delivery services and driving companies will face. In the past, Burke has taken several measures throughout the years to protect the taxicab companies from the new and innovative technological vehicles that soon will take over the industry.

If autonomous cars do become the primary form of transportation, changes to the zoning and city planning will have to be done. Road way infrastructure will need changes. Roadways that currently accommodate human error with wide streets, guardrails and lane markings and signs may disappear creating more rooms for pedestrians and bike lanes. Though Illinois has only taken the first step to introducing testing for autonomous cars, we should keep in mind the changes the cities would have to go through to accommodate the new technology.

R.F. Wittmeyer

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