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The Future of Driverless Cars in Illinois

In mid-January 2018, Pizza Hut announced the company was in plans to create and launch driverless delivery vans with the help of Toyota. This announcement ushers in a new trend in commercial businesses: the driverless car. According to Tech World, the companies currently working on developing driverless cars include:

  • Amazon
  • Samsung
  • Huawei
  • Nvidia
  • Volkswagen
  • Baidu
  • Uber
  • Volvo
  • Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
  • Apple
  • Intel
  • BMW
  • Audi
  • Google
  • nuTonomy
  • Bosch
  • Tesla
  • Ford
  • Five AI

How is Illinois Preparing for Self-Driving Cars?

Both the state of Illinois and the Federal government have laws for cars with actual drivers in them (obviously). How are the state of Illinois and federal lawmakers preparing for self-driving cars?

According to the Illinois Policy website, on September 6, 2018, the United States House of Representatives passed the Self Drive Act. This Act regulates self-driving vehicles on the United States’ road, allows “automakers to apply for exemptions from certain transportation safety regulations, and permit[s] up to 25,000 self-driving cars on the road in the first year, and up to 10,000 such vehicles within three years.”

As for Illinois, on August 25, 2017, Governor Bruce Rauner “signed into law a bill that prohibits local measures to ban self-driving cars in Illinois.”

Advocates of both laws state that the laws help encourage “safety, fuel efficiency and increased access to transportation…for the elderly and persons with disabilities” as well as increase the safety on the roads due to decreasing accidents related to human error.

Becoming an Industry Leader


“We would want to make sure they were safe. We would want to make sure they were secure,” said State Representative Mike Zalewski, (D) Riverside. Additionally, Zalewski added, “Illinois would become an industry leader in autonomous vehicles if this were to become law.”

According to the National Safety Council’s 2017 report, between 2015 and 2016, fatalities related to motor vehicles increased 6%. When digging into the numbers, human error accounts for 95 percent of car accidents.

While lawmakers believe driverless cars would reduce the number of car accidents, AAA study found that 78% of those surveyed feared the idea of driverless cars. “Everyone is saying can you make a self-driving car as safe as a human? Well, the goal is to make it safer than a human because humans don’t drive that well,” said Joe Wiesenfelder, executive editor of

However, when these cars begin transporting deliveries, who holds the insurance? The non-driver in the vehicle? The business?

“Is it the automaker? Is it the person who bought the car? All of these things are going to have to be addressed,” Wiesenfelder said.

Will They Reduce Speeding Tickets?

Next, another issue to consider includes changes to Chicago’s traffic laws and tickets. Driverless cars are projected to impact cities and traffic laws. Developers state that driverless cars should reduce the number of speeding tickets, red light tickets, and other traffic issues. But this could result in less cash for Chicago’s coffers.

Lauren Issac, a researcher and manager of sustainable transportation at WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff, states that “people someday may view human-operated cars the way people today see horses and buggies.” However, Issac also admits “It could be really messy” getting there.

But there is no need to worry in the immediate future. According to Michael Chui, a partner at the McKinsey Global Institute, a consulting group’s economic research leg, “These technologies don’t work perfectly yet. They’re not great in the rain or snow. There are issues when lane markings aren’t clear.” According to Toyota who is working with Pizza Hut, Amazon, and Uber on Toyota’s “e-Palette” driverless vehicle, the concept is “envisioned for use in the 2030s.” At this time, according to Toyota Motor North America’s safety technology communications manager Ming-Jou Chen, “Our plans going forward include feasibility testing, with the timing and other details still being considered at this time.”

The Downsides of Driverless Cars

In our immediate neck of the woods, two Chicago alderman do not support the use of self-driving cars. The two alderman believe that the streets of Chicago are not the place to experiment with driverless cars. However, Mayor Rahm Emanuel sees things a little differently. A spokesperson for Mayor Rahm Emanuel said that “the city is planning to take a cautious and thoughtful approach to the introduction of driverless vehicle technologies.”

“Chicago is a global leader in transportation innovation and it is incumbent on us to carefully review the safety and economic potential these technology advances offer,” the spokesperson said.

R.F. Wittmeyer

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