Congressional Briefing - March 24, 2014

"Self Driving" Vehicles: Great Benefits, but Barriers to Widespread Adoption

A Google self-driven car in Las Vegas, Nevada

Reuters/Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles


Monday, March 24, 2014


2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.


2168 Rayburn House Office Building (Gold Room)
Washington, D.C.


About the Program

Autonomous, or “self-driving” vehicle technology offers the possibility of significant benefits to social welfare—saving lives; reducing crashes; increasing mobility for the disabled; and ultimately improving land use. But it could also lead to greater congestion and fuel consumption, lost parking revenue, declining mass transit ridership, and fewer transportation jobs.

After examining the advantages and disadvantages of autonomous vehicles, RAND researchers determined that the overall societal benefits of this new technology likely outweigh the disadvantages. But many of the benefits won't go to the vehicle purchasers, which may hinder adoption, potentially at a cost of thousands of lives. So is pursuing this new technology worth the cost? And if so, how can policymakers best encourage appropriate use?

James Anderson will present results from the RAND study on:

  • the current state of the technology;
  • the policy issues raised by this new technology;
  • regulation and standards that could be affected,
  • liability issues that may arise; and
  • guidance for policymakers, guided largely by the principle that the technology should be allowed and perhaps encouraged when it is superior to an average human driver.

About the Speaker

James Anderson is a senior behavioral scientist at the RAND Corporation and a member of the faculty at the Pardee RAND Graduate School. He is working on projects on the appropriate role for criminal law in regulating business conduct, improving the use of forensic evidence, the effect of regulating medical marijuana, and the policy implications of autonomous vehicle technology. Among other topics, Anderson has published on the effect of zoning on crime, the indeterminacy of the economic analysis of tort law, a retrospective on no-fault automobile insurance, and a project on the liability implications of autonomous vehicles. Before joining RAND, he practiced law for ten years. Anderson received a J.D. from Yale Law School and a B.A. in ethics, politics, and economics from Yale University.

About RAND

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND focuses on the issues that matter most, such as health, education, national security, international affairs, law and business, the environment, and more. As a nonpartisan organization, RAND operates independent of political and commercial pressures. We serve the public interest by helping lawmakers reach informed decisions on the nation's pressing challenges.

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