Tahlequah Daily Press

Checking It Out

January 15, 2013

Is the world prepared for the driverless car era? Are you?

Picture it. You slip into your car, recline and start reading the day's news on your smartphone. The vehicle accelerates, smoothly navigates traffic and seamlessly merges onto the freeway, without your lifting a finger.

All around you, other autonomous cars zoom by. Each operates safely at high speeds, halving your commute time. Each drives with precision, eliminating congestion and conserving fuel. Each respects pedestrians, avoids collisions and always takes the most efficient route. Your car drops you at the office, then parks itself in a lot on the outskirts of town, where it awaits your summons at quitting time.

Such a glorious commute may be decades away. But the era of autonomous cars is fast approaching. Last week, Audi and Toyota both made headlines with advances in automated driving. Google has been a much-publicized pioneer in the field. Automakers General Motors, Daimler and Nissan, among many others, have plans to automate their products to varying degrees.

And no wonder. Autonomous cars could create lucrative new businesses, spur welcome advances in public planning, vastly improve our quality of life, mitigate human error on the roads, and, not least, reduce the more than 30,000 annual driving fatalities in the United States alone. There will also be drawbacks and unintended consequences. That's why policy makers need to start planning for a future that seems to be arriving faster than we ever expected.

Three issues in particular require scrutiny.

First, we'll need a new legal and regulatory framework. State and federal driving laws obviously weren't written with this technology in mind, but as Bryant Walker Smith of Stanford University's Center for Internet and Society has persuasively argued, automated vehicles are almost certainly already legal throughout the U.S.

California, Florida and Nevada have already begun regulating them. Such laws will start important conversations: They'll acclimate regulators, transportation authorities and law enforcement to the new technology, and offer manufacturers some degree of predictability. State lawmakers should also develop common legal and technical definitions; words such as "driverless" and "automated" are often used blithely yet can mean very different things. And states should consider how they'll need to update their licensing and registration rules and revise traffic laws — for instance, by reducing following- distance requirements when appropriate — to better accommodate autonomous technology.

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Checking It Out
  • 700859_46212351.jpg Is the world prepared for the driverless car era? Are you?

    Picture it. You slip into your car, recline and start reading the day's news on your smartphone. The vehicle accelerates, smoothly navigates traffic and seamlessly merges onto the freeway, without your lifting a finger.

    January 15, 2013 1 Photo

  • Big Easy: Good food, music and fun

    New Orleans isn’t for the faint of heart. So if you’re offended by transvestites, topless women, sex toy shops, all-hours bars, the sight of people purging in the street and other visions of light-hearted debauchery, read no further, because the Big Easy is not for you.

    March 7, 2012

  • Hard Rock Resort: Gaming, dining, fun and relaxation, all in one!

    The Tulsa-area partnership with the Cherokee Nation promises to be a success.

    December 1, 2010

  • 67732_1613212460524_1542685549_31469326_5271964_n.jpg Walt Disney World, Part 4

    Anytime my husband and I schedule a few days of vacation, checking out good restaurants tops our list of things to do.

    October 22, 2010 4 Photos

  • 73368_1612961654254_1542685549_31468995_3483307_n.jpg Walt Disney World, Part 3

    When it comes to travel, I count myself extremely lucky. For one thing, I have family in a few ultimate vacation spots, and they’re always happy to put up with me for a couple of days.

    October 22, 2010 4 Photos

  • 67314_1610259146693_1542685549_31465934_2333581_n.jpg Walt Disney World, Part 2

    How long do you need at Walt Disney World to enjoy every attraction, every restaurant and every recreational outlet? Do you have two months to spare?
    Probably not, unless you’re retired and blessed with a recent lottery win.

    October 20, 2010 4 Photos

  • 64988_1608792190020_1542685549_31463803_2253724_n.jpg Walt Disney World, Part 1

    When you step into the enchanting world created in 1971 by Walt Disney, on what was once an expanse of uninviting swampland, you can literally leave behind whatever troubles you have, if only for a few days.

    October 19, 2010 4 Photos

  • 20864_1480865951944_1542685549_31163374_4310619_n.jpg While in Chicago, take in a game or two

    Thursday was our last full day in the Windy City, and once we finally rolled out of bed, we were en route for U.S. Cellular Field to take in a White Sox Game. Not that we’re Sox fans, mind you – they just happened to be playing the Angels, which my son considers “his” team.

    July 14, 2010 3 Photos

  • 34281_1480866871967_1542685549_31163379_2965839_n.jpg Chicago is architecture aficionado's paradise

    Chicago is an architecture aficionado's ultimate paradise. Thanks to the Great Fire of the 1880s (and, in popular legend, the clumsy or recalcitrant nature of Mrs. O'Leary's cow), the city could be rebuild according to a splendidly harmonized scheme, rather than the ramshackle fashion through which most urban areas take shape over time.

    July 14, 2010 2 Photos

  • Day 4 (Tuesday) in the Windy City

    It might be hard to believe you can get good Cajun food in a place as far north from New Orleans as you can get without pronouncing “about” without the “o” (that’s a-BUTT, for those of you not in the know). But you can, and that’s how we started the day Tuesday, July 6, in the Windy City.

    July 8, 2010

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