Autonomous Vehicles Could Require A New Type Of Driver’s License

The pending arrival of autonomous vehicles holds many promises of making our roads safer and more convenient. But don’t count on them eliminating the need for driver’s licenses just yet.

According to the latest research recommendations, not only should the “drivers” of self-driving cars still be required to hold a valid license, but may need to get re-certified. The reason? In a word: handover.

For the foreseeable future, autonomous vehicles will likely require human intervention under certain circumstances. But trials staged in the UK suggest that it takes about three seconds for a driver to re-focus and take the wheel again after the car has been driving itself.

Even at speeds as low as 20 miles per hour (32 km/h), the vehicle could travel for nearly 90 feet without anyone (or anything) actually in control. That’s about six and a half car-lengths. At 60 mph (96.5 km/h), that three-second lag could translate to nearly 300 feet. That’s nearly the entire length of an American football field – a space in which, as you might imagine, anything could happen.

Who’s Responsible?

Based on those factors, British law firm Burges Salmon and insurance company AXA recommend that drivers should undertake specialized certification to ensure they can handle the handover process more seamlessly. The findings form part of the second of three planned reports from their joint Venturer project. The initiative is backed in part by the government’s Innovate UK agency.

“Handover presents a complication for the basic liability model,” notes AXA’s David Williams. “How can we apportion responsibility between human driver and the vehicle fairly?”

For our part, we’re all in favor of proper certification and training to operate motor vehicles – even those designed to operate autonomously. We can’t help but wonder, though, if that lag in handover time isn’t something around which self-driving cars ought to be designed. Let the vehicle’s systems maintain control, we say, until the driver is actually ready to take over.

“Setting the boundaries of driver and autonomous system liability will require a detailed understanding of how users interact with technology,” said Burges Salmon transport lawyer Chris Jackson. “Defining the parameters of handover is an important step in delivering the driverless experience which people will expect.”

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  • Bash

    Honestly, at this point of time, I’m not exactly sure if my kids will have to own or buy a car in the future. With all that Autonomous technology we read about every day or every other day,

  • salamOOn

    this “autonomous bandwagon” is becoming bigger and bigger joke…

    • ChrisInIL

      The underlying motivation for autonomous vehicles is control of the populace. That isn’t a joke.

      • Status

        Or it’s underlying motivation is superior traffic management which will aid city planners the world over. It’s 100% privately funded, and none of it fits your foolish “left vs. right” bullshit narrative.

        You need to lay off prison planet and info wars, grow up, and invest in companies that are developing machine learning algorithms.

        • ChrisInIL

          Wow, that’s twice in the last week that you confirmed my point.

          I must admit I find your “filling in the blanks” method of argument entertaining.

          • Status

            You’re still trying in vain to hitch this new technology onto the ‘controlling big government’ bandwagon, and unless you can connect the taxpayer money onto it, you’re just needlessly fear mongering.

            Really, you have the most to lose from this. Everyone else will be fine.

          • ChrisInIL

            The entertainment I derive comes from you positing two sides of an argument and then going on to defend one of them.

            It’s an interesting study in psychology.

  • Loquacious Borborygmus

    Can we have a new stock autonomous vehicle picture?
    I’m sick of the sight of that guy.

  • brn

    All autonomous vehicles are being lumped together.

    GM promises L4 autonomous vehicles in the next couple of years. There’s no requirement for a handover in L4. Why do I need a license at all?

    L1 vehicles are becoming commonplace. Should I need a special license if my car has automatic breaking?

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