Two articles recently crossed my feed, addressing the question of autonomous vehicle regulation.
More broadly, most of the problems facing autonomous vehicles, and the vast number of accidents they’re involved in, trace back to the continuing role played by unpredictable humans, either behind the wheel or piloting other vehicles. So NACTO [National Association of City Transport Officials] wants humans taken out of the picture; it supports full automation, as soon as possible.
Conversely, a post by Alex Tabarrok on the libertarian-leaning Marginal Revolution argues the benefits of a laissez-faire approach to autonomy, mainly by highlighting the costs of regulation.
Airbags began to be deployed in the 1970s, for example when they were not as safe as they are today but airbags improved over time and by the 1990s were fairly common. It was only in 1998, long after they were an option and the design had stabilized, that the Federal government required airbags in all new cars.
Had burdensome regulations been imposed on airbags in the 1970s the technology would have been delayed and the net result could well have been more injury and death.
My take is that we should hold off on regulation until we see a significant problem with externalities.
Once we get self-driving cars crashing into other vehicles and pedestrians at rates beyond what we see in human-driven cars, then we may have to throw on additional regulations in the name of public safety.
The recent Tesla accident was not that, not yet. But of course the next one might be.