No sooner has Google built its first autonomous car, and been granted its autonomous vehicle driving license in the State of California, than the Silicon Valley company has begun paving the way for autonomous two-wheeled transportation.
Writing an email to the State of California to do away with legal wording that restricts autonomous vehicle licenses just to cars, Google’s Ron Medford hopes to allow driverless/riderless trucks and motorcycles on city streets, provided they prove the same safety standards as with Google’s autonomous car program.
“It is certainly possible that future testing could include motorcycles or larger commercial vehicles,” said Medford in his email. “If some innovator can demonstrate that testing autonomous technology on such vehicles is safe, then they should be allowed to test.”
The reason for the letter is simple, trucks and motorcycles have greater commercial application in the real world. Autonomous vehicles have heavy implications in long-distance shipping via tractor-trailer, and urban delivery services could benefit greatly from autonomous two-wheelers (especially in California’s lane-sharing environment) — think of it as competitor for Amazon’s drone delivery service.
Autonomous vehicles are a topic we have talked a great deal about here at Asphalt & Rubber, and rightfully so. The implications of this technology are huge not only for motorcycling, but for society as a whole.
Their adoption means changes in the way we see transportation in the future, they have implications on how we use motor vehicles for recreation going forward, and they mean sweeping changes to the legal dynamic regarding vehicles.
The big debate for motorcyclists though has been how autonomous vehicle will interact with non-autonomous vehicles, namely how will an autonomous vehicle handle coming across the very dynamic traffic patterns of a motorcyclist? It’s a question we posed two years ago, and thankfully an issue that the MIC and AMA have finally taken interest in as well.
The crux of the debate is whether autonomous vehicles will adapt to the current traffic landscape, or whether they will dictate their own. There is also the discussion of how the transportation will evolve over time, and the very real possibility that it could threaten motorcycling as we know it.
While the technology involved is exciting, the implications of it are a bit daunting, especially if motorcyclist groups stand idly by. And of course, there is the whole SkyNet debate that we haven’t even touched upon…
Source: The Sunday Times