Lawmakers from California, Texas and Virginia are wooing the auto industry by financing research centers, building fake suburbs for the test-driving of cars and by going light on regulations. These politicians are eager to put self-driving cars on the roads. Motorists too have reasons to embrace the self-driving cars from fuel savings, safer commutes and freed-up time behind the wheel.
Virginia for example is trying to attract automakers by designing 70 miles of roads in North Virginia for autonomous car testing. The roads give carmakers a variety of conditions for testing. Virginia wants to bring the prize to the state. The prize is a piece of the estimated $20 billion that automakers and companies will spend globally on development for the next five years.
Michigan is sensing a threat to its leadership in the auto industry and it is not taking any chances. In July, officials unveiled a 32-acre testing ground in Ann Arbor specifically for researching self driving cars. The state has spent $6 million to build a mock suburb with asphalt and gravel roads where cars can be tested without becoming a threat to civilians.
Florida is also setting up a fake town of its own and officials want the site which is on the design phase to be able to simulate urban and highway driving. Florida’s laws are meant to make it easy for carmakers to test their cars on the state but California, Michigan and Nevada are also passing legislation for self-driving cars.
Automakers on the other hand are asking states to make exceptions out of their existing rules for autonomous cars. States generally have regulations on any moving images on the navigation screen so as not to distract drivers. According to Audi engineers, drivers in autonomous cars will be more alert if engaged in an in-car entertainment system. The solution is to make it legal for drivers to watch movies while the car drives itself.
Automakers also want the participation of Silicon Valley particularly its innovation community for a variety of reasons beyond the autonomous cars. They also want the federal government to be involved to avoid of patchwork of laws around the country.