Transportation Analyst: Hands Off Driverless Cars, Uncle Sam

A transportation policy analyst warns that lawmakers and regulators should steer clear of driverless vehicles when they arrive.

Marc Scribner is a fellow for the Competitive Enterprise Institute, where he focuses on transportation policy issues.

He believes driverless cars will be available in the not-too-distant future.

"It depends on who you ask," he says. "But I think it's completely within the realm of possibility that within the next five and certainly 10 years that we're going to have consumer models available for purchase."

Sharon Carty of AOL Autos has made similar comments, telling OneNewsNow in 2013 that "everybody" is working on these kinds of vehicles and that "some estimates say that automated cars will be available for the public by 2018."

Regardless, Scribner, who once rode through downtown Washington, D.C. in Google's self-driving car, believes that lawmakers and regulators should avoid getting in the way of development.

"The problem with the heavy hand of regulation, especially at this early stage, is that it has the potential to lock in inferior, first-generation technologies and prevent innovation that would otherwise occur," he explains. "So these cars will not be as good. They will not be as widely available to consumers and they would likely cost more."

What does that mean for consumers?

Scribner says that means consumers would be "stuck" with manually-driven automobiles that are less safe, which translates to more injuries and deaths.

OneNewsNow asked if that may be why government should get involved with the development of driverless vehicles, to make sure there is not a safety issue.

Scribner says automakers and companies working on driverless cars are aware of the litigious society in which we live. Any start-ups that may offer unsafe third-party modifications of existing vehicles will be put out of business by the trial lawyers that would "pounce" on them before regulators would be able to act, he says.