Sometime in the future – although no one quite knows when – your morning commute may look something like this: Open an app, summon a car and wait for the arrival of a driverless vehicle that will whisk you to work like a ghost chauffeur.
For many of the automakers and technology companies gathering at the World Economic Forum in Davos this week, the big question is not whether such an event could become a reality, but whether we are ready.
The short answer: We are not.
“The technology is really advancing faster than we had originally anticipated,” said Steve Hill, the director of the governor’s office of economic development in Nevada, the first state to pass legislation allowing driverless cars to be tested, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. “I wouldn’t really say that Nevada, or really any place else, has really developed the policies that will be needed to facilitate the industry moving forward.”
By many accounts, Mr. Hill is right. Even though fully autonomous cars could be ready for the road within the next decade, only 6 percent of the country’s most populous cities have accounted for them in their long-term plans, according to a study from the National League of Cities, an advocacy and research group.
“If governments are not equipped to react quickly when automated vehicle technology is ready for use by consumers, that will be a challenge, and it has the possibility to delay consumer benefits from this technology,” said Emily Castor, the director of transportation policy at Lyft, which recently announced a $500 million partnership with General Motors dedicated in part to developing a fleet of autonomous cars.