Driving Forward: The Future of Autonomous Vehicles

by | Feb 29, 2024 | Trucking and Transportation

As the presence of autonomous vehicles becomes increasingly common on the road, there are several challenges accompanying the advancement of this technology that need to be considered not only by the industry but also by every driver sharing the road with these vehicles.


When it comes to oversight, drivers face more scrutiny than autonomous vehicles. San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott, in an internal memo, stated that, as per the specifics of California state law, “No citation for a moving violation can be issued if [an autonomous vehicle] is being operated in a driverless mode.” However, this does not exempt autonomous vehicles from parking citations in California. Developments are being made in the sector of transportation law regarding autonomous vehicles, especially in states where the presence of autonomous vehicles is more common. The Texas Transportation Code, for example, was quick to adapt to the presence of autonomous vehicles on the road and their oversight, with a change in 2017 making it so that the owner of an autonomous vehicle is “considered the operator…regardless of whether the person is physically present in the vehicle” and can thus be cited for the vehicle breaking traffic laws. Arizona law also states that the owner “may be issued a traffic citation or other applicable penalty if the [autonomous] vehicle fails to comply with traffic or motor vehicle laws.” California, as Chief Bill Scott’s memo makes clear, does not have a similar regulation in place.


With the growing presence of autonomous vehicles on the road, drivers and autonomous vehicle manufacturers alike must face the emerging need for change in the realm of auto insurance. Vehicles, autonomous or not, are becoming more complex and thus more expensive to repair if an accident does take place. With California’s property damage liability insurance limit being only $5,000, it’s unlikely that this level of insurance will cover the cost of a collision with an autonomous vehicle. As vehicles with higher levels of autonomous capabilities reach the roads in greater numbers, the auto insurance industry will need to adapt to keep up.


It is almost impossible to discuss changes in the vehicles present on the road without taking into consideration rideshares. With the continued development of autonomous vehicles, there has been a shift towards driverless rideshares. Many have concerns about the purported safety and capability of these autonomous vehicles, while others see the benefits of autonomous rideshares becoming more prevalent. As Waymo spokesperson Julia Ilina says, Waymo’s autonomous vehicles are made to exhibit “polite, considerate, and defensive driving.” However, the road is not an unchanging environment and may sometimes require a more human level of flexibility. The passengers of rideshares are unpredictable as well. They may fall asleep, spill drinks, spill food, leave trash, need to be picked up across the street from where the autonomous vehicle stopped to get them, or need to be dropped off a block before the autonomous vehicle stops. The variability of human behavior may cause problems in the integration of autonomous vehicles in the rideshare space.


As more advanced and numerous autonomous vehicles hit the road, it’s not only the other drivers who will need to adapt. Legislation and insurance policies will need to follow suit. It remains important for manufacturers and drivers alike to stay aware, stay informed, and stay alert to the changes brought about by this emergent technology.