Milwaukee Biz Blog: The greatest threat

Feds should stay out of autonomous vehicle business

Perhaps the greatest threat to the health and welfare of the citizens of the United States is not man-made global warming or Islamist State after all.  The greatest threat may well be the increasing involvement of the federal government in the development of autonomous vehicles.

The Obama administration is set to spend $4 billion over the next ten years to develop regulations and rules for vehicles that are designed to drive without a driver behind the steering wheel. At the current rate of over 30,000 traffic fatalities per year, at least 300,000 Americans will have been killed over the government’s proposed time frame.  Twenty million people will be injured.


The autonomous vehicle business has been doing just fine on its own, thank you.  Every car company on the planet has a driverless vehicle initiative in place.  Automobile vendors including Delphi and Bosch have partnered to create self driving cars for Nissan, Mercedes Benz and Audi.  Audi has a self driving race car named Robby, that blasts around Sonoma Raceway in California only a few seconds slower than a car driven by a professional race car driver.

And Google, the most advanced of them all, is “driving” driverless cars all over California. Google cars don’t have a steering wheel, brake pedal or throttle pedal, because, as Google noted in 2014, with the software and sensors doing the work, “they don’t need them.”

Oh wait. That was before California stepped in with their proposed regulations requiring that the self-driving car would have to be capable of having a driver take control. Other rules would require “drivers” to get a special license to operate a driverless vehicle. Self driving cars would have to pass a test by a third party. And, consumers would be prohibited from buying and owning driverless vehicles. The regulators will only allow the automobile companies to lease them.

The automobile companies and Google have been investing millions of dollars in autonomous vehicles. This is not due to government incentives, but rather because the market is demanding self driving cars. With the Obama regulation plan the federal government will be positioned to pick winners and losers not based on the most effective technology but based on the most effective lobbying effort.

According to the Competitive Enterprises Institute the cost of federal regulation reached $1.88 trillion in 2014. With the federal government set to meddle in the autonomous vehicle business, the real cost of regulation will be measured in the hundreds of thousands of lives that will be lost due to non-autonomous cars.

Dennis Ellmaurer is a management consultant working primarily as a TEC chairman, leading two CEO mastermind groups in southeastern Wisconsin. He is also a speaker and executive coach. He can be reached at (414) 801-5780 or


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