As California Legalizes Self-Driving Cars, Are Motorcycling’s Days Numbered?

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The movement of transportation as a commodity continues, as California has become the second state to legalize the use of automated cars on its roadways (Nevada was first).

Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law today SB 1298, which specifically legalizes the use of autonomous vehicles, as long as a licensed and bonded operator is in the vehicle’s driver seat.

Essentially legitimizing what was a legal grey-area, what the bill does does explicitly is green-light more autonomous vehicle projects in the Golden State.

With applications from the trucking industry to the car-sharing, and everything in-between, the advent of autonomous four-wheelers signals an interesting, yet scary, future for motorcyclists.

According to former Ford/Chrysler/GM-man Bob Lutz, self-driving cars could be the norm in as few as 20 years — an idea the could materially change the driving landscape as we know it.

As autonomous vehicles become increasing the status quo on the road, user-guided vehicles like motorcycles will become greater outliers, and could face a tyranny of the majority.

The immediate concern of course is that self-driving vehicles may not be able to adapt and predict to every situation that a motorcycle could present the vehicle on the roadway (motorcyclists all know that human-driven cars have a hard enough time with this reality as it is). However, the long-term concern should be focused on the increasing marginalization of motorcycles in the daily transportation discourse.

Let’s face it, here in the United States, motorcyclists operate a two-wheeled vehicle in very much a four-wheeled vehicle world — just ask anyone that has gone through a motorcycle-only checkpoint, received some extra scrutiny from Johnny Law, or just simply gotten a dirty look from an SUV-clad soccer mom. We ride motorcycles to separate ourselves from the cage drivers that surround us, but that is a concept that cuts both ways, unfortunately.

This is an issue I have written about a few times now, but as self-driving vehicles become more prevalent, and eventually enter into the societal norm, the landscape of how our roads and highways work will significantly change over the coming decades.

A form of transportation centered-around the idea of freedom and personal expression here in the United States, how will motorcycling adjust to this change in how we operate vehicles, or better yet, what are our parental figures, the AMA and MIC, doing to ensure that a future exists for motorcyclists in an autonomous vehicle world? I have yet to hear a response to that question.

Source: CNN & Yahoo Finance