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On May 1st, Amazon Prime premiered Upload, the story of a software engineer whose consciousness is transferred to the cloud after his fully autonomous vehicle (AV) rear-ends another car. The accident takes place in 2033. By then, the show imagines, vehicles that drive themselves will be the default. We won’t spoil the ending. But, in the fictional 2033—only 13 years from now—the public is astounded when the vehicle is involved in a wreck. It is an entertaining take on the future. In reality, however, we’ve got a lot of regulations to update if autonomous vehicles (AVs) are going to play the role imagined in Upload.
That’s too bad, given the current state of affairs. As industry commentators have noted, in this time of pandemic AVs could have provided much needed assistance with long-haul shipments, non-contact deliveries of food and other goods, and contact-free transportation of the sick or elderly to and from medical appointments. Some have predicted that the benefits AVs provide during public health crises will help propel them to wider acceptance and regulatory approval. And while there is still much work to be done on that front, there is a solid foundation to build on.