Self-driving vehicles

General Motors Wants to Outlaw Silicon Valley Self-Driving Car Competition

Shameless crony capitalism play by Detroit automaker



In December, the Michigan legislature adopted the SAVE Act pretending that its goal was to help get self-driving vehicles on Michigan's roads as soon as possible. Fortune magazine actually declared that the state had passed the "most permissive self-driving car laws in the country." In some respects, maybe yes, but the Act contains a telling bit of crony capitalism: "A motor vehicle manufacturer may participate in a SAVE project if it self-certifies to all of the following: (a) That it is a motor vehicle manufacturer. A person that is not a motor vehicle manufacturer may not participate in a SAVE project."

In other words, it is a naked attempt to protect legacy vehicle manufacturers, like Ford, GM, Chrysler-Fiat, etc., from competition with software companies like Google and ride-hailing services like Uber. In the case of Michigan, Waymo, the self-driving division of Alphabet (Google), managed to get itself grandfathered after pointing out that its self-driving vehicles had vastly more actual road testing experience than any of the automakers.

According to The Wall Street Journal, GM is now getting pet legislators to introduce the SAVE ACT in other states. The Journal reports that Illinois state Rep. Michael Zalewski has introduced a bill that, like Michigan's, would limit access for testing self-driving vehicles on that state's roads to companies that make their own vehicles.

That means GM would be eligible, but not tech companies like Uber Technologies Inc. that are developing their own self-driving cars and don't make their own vehicles.

"General Motors approached me about it and suggested that they had success last year in Michigan [with a similar bill], and they consider Chicago a big market for them," Mr. Zalewski, a Democrat, said in an interview. "We went from there." …

After falling behind in self-driving cars, GM has unleashed its powerful lobbying team to cultivate relationships with statehouses. The largest U.S. vehicle maker by sales has a long history of backing legislation to preserve its interests, including a bill in Indiana last year that would stop electric-vehicle maker Tesla Inc. from operating its own stores there.

This is outrageous.

In my July 2016 article, "Will Politicians Block Our Driverless Future?," I reported that when a U.S. Senate committee asked then-head of Google's self-driving vehicle program Chris Urmson what additional legislation was needed, he replied: "What we have found in most places is that the best action is to take no action. And that in general the technology can be safely tested today on roads in many states."

In other words, stay away.

The scurrilous motivations behind the SAVE Act might be best summarized as "I'm from the government and I'm here to help my cronies by hurting their competitors."

For more background, see my March 2017 article, "Bad News: The Government Wants to 'Help' Driverless Car Companies."

NEXT: A War on Recreational Marijuana Would Be a Nightmare (For Trump)

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. GM does something outrageous and contrary to ‘the public interest’?
    Who could possibly be surprised?

    1. Certainly not Charles Wilson.

  2. Libertarians should leading the fight against self-driving cars. It’s essentially going to turn people’s mobility over to the state. At the very least, they will be able to monitor wherever people go. At worst, it will lead to the outlawing of human driven cars, the wet dream of the left.

    1. J: Libertarians should be in favor of letting people choose the mode of transport they want.

      1. Do you believe that driverless for some necessitates driverless for all?

        1. $: No, but they will make transportation so much cheaper that most folks will choose to use robotaxis for most of their transportation needs.

          1. That’s all well and good, but morality and safety are not, in my opinion, sufficient reasons to force behavior.

            1. WTF? How are you reading “forced behavior” into Ron’s replies? The government will force whatever behavior it wants whenever it wants and will always frame it as safe and moral when it never is. This is nothing new.

              It seems like you’re bitching about driverless cars giving government new ideas for control. So you want to control people so they can’t give government new ideas.

              1. Um… hmmm…

                See Ron’s link that he helpfully provided below on why he thinks driverless cars are the moral choice.

                Based on Ron’s stance as absolutely all-in for driverless, I was curious about his opinion. And also if he’s good with people who don’t want driverless to be forced to accept driverless.

                1. Look, I have no problem with complaining about Ron’s stupider articles. Ten years ago he essentially advocated Obamacare.

                  The moral argument for driverless cars will be reflected in one’s insurance premiums. If anything, government will find a way to fuck it up so that the most dangerous vehicles on the road will have the lowest insurance costs.

                  1. FU-CS: Actually, I advocated “Baileycare.” 😉 It turns out that what I proposed was very similar to the Swiss health insurance system.

          2. I find it highly unlikely most people will not want to have their own vehicle to go where they want hiw far they want when they want with what they want

            The idea that the majority are going using a taxi service is just as much wishful thinking as high speed rail advicates.

            1. If I lived in a city, robotaxis would be extremely attractive. Save $500 a month from payments and insurance on even a reasonably cheap car which has to be general purpose, rent the exact vehicle you need when you need one, take robotaxis the rest of the time.

              The only thing I’d miss would be not having all my travel trash in the car waiting for me.

              I wouldn’t miss worrying about breakins and finding a parking spot.

              I would enjoy the diversity of vehicles available.

            2. Perhaps a better answer to yours is that most trips I take are for shopping or visiting friends or other short time trips. Robotaxis would be awesome for that.

              The few long trips would be better handled by a rental, since I could get what was good for that trip — awd in snow, a convertible in spring, a pickup for loads.

              I would relish not having to own a general purpose vehicle that was usually overkill for most tasks.

    2. At worst, it will lead to the outlawing of human driven cars, the wet dream of the left.

      What percentage, do you wager, of people who identify as being “on the left” hold “the outlawing of human driven cars” to be a “wet dream”?

    3. In theory, the idea of the driverless car is aweesome. As a technophile, I totally get it.

      BUT, I still have yet to hear a serious discussion about with the tort and liability issues that are going to happen when one of these driverless cars fails to detect someone’s six year old kid in the middle of the street and runs him over.

      I hope nobody is going to insult my intelligence and tell me that these cars will be perfectly engineering and something like that will never, ever happen. These are serious issues that can’t just be hand-waved away.

      1. No, we’ll insult your intelligence by wondering why you haven’t already seen an explosion in lawsuits where kids were hit by cars while the driver clams the detection systems ALREADY IN CARS has failed.

      2. something like that will never, ever happen

        And “never, ever get in an accident” clearly the proper criteria, given human drivers have never been in a single accident since the car was first introduced a century ago.

      3. It is called insurance dumbass. You pay for it as it and its been shown they are already safer than drivers.

      4. Musk proposes that Teslas owns that responsibility when he sells a car that has bundled maintenance and insurance.

    4. They already monitor as i have posted liek 3 times. License plate scanners and IPASS/EZ-Pass.

      1. BTW I have messaged Reason and EFF several times over the last 2 or 3 years and they have yet to report about it.
        But IL IPASS takes your photo every time you go through whether you pay or not and keeps this record at the IL Police head quarters and local LEOs can request access to it.
        I found out about this from a North Aurora cop who taught criminal justice classes i was taking for my own education of my enemy 😀 know thy enemy of course.
        I also ready in a Pop Science hack your stuff section about 5 years ago the reason IPass never beeps anymore is because they turned it into a tracking device.
        The guy at pop science put a beeper in it and had a WTF moment when it constantly went off as he drove around. He realized it was a tracking system set up to log and map the IPASS movement…essentially you.
        Again Reason and EFF still have been ignoring this for some reason.
        I assume it is those white rectangles every quarter mile on the highway that scan the IPASSes.

        1. I constantly give it knife hands, middle fingers, holding my hand rifle shooting it (USMC thing), drive blind with my hands over my eyes, drove through it with a yeti costume on i bought off amazon, hanged myself, budd dwyered myself and so many other obscene things so they have 100s if not 1000s of funny photos of me.
          I would FIOA request all my photos and make a funny photo book out of it and post it online but i don’t really know how to FIOA request that or if they would just pretend it doesn’t exist or say for privacy reasont hey can’t release MY photos to ME. :/
          It was annoying enough to FOIA a dashcam that was conveniently half missing with the important sounds of the officer saying highly illegal shit missing. I wanted to sue them for illegally detaining me for nearly 30 mins in 34F weather because i asked several neighbors if they were missing a dog. Fucking slavers. Sadly a lawyer said unless i get shot or beaten judges dont care….so as long as its only inconveniencing and highly illegal it is okay. Anything is good to a judge as long as i am not beaten or killed….fuck i hate people

        2. Texas tracks ez passes and anything Bluetooth they can detect. Use it to track volume and traffic speed.

          It is supposedly anonymized.

    5. Self-driving cars seem like a good idea to me, but governments and the corporations that design these cars will ruin them. The cars will likely spy on you for governments and corporations (some cars do this to some extent already), include DRM that will prevent you from fixing the car yourself or taking it to a mechanic of your choice (again, some cars do this already), and eventually include a ‘feature’ which allows cops to remotely stop the car. Oh, and to make matters worse, the government will of course try to use safety as an excuse to make these cars mandatory. Hopefully none of this will happen, but I just don’t have enough confidence that the government won’t abuse this opportunity.

  3. Ron, can you please now write a piece titled “Will Politicians Force Our Driverless Future?” in which you try to argue the other side?

      1. That would be “Case for ….”

      2. Autonomous vehicles would also likely shift the way people think about car ownership. Currently most automobiles are idle most of the day in driveways or parking lots as their owners go about their lives. Truly autonomous vehicles make it possible for vehicles to be on the road much more of the time, essentially providing taxi service to users who summon them to their locations via mobile devices. Once riders are done with the cars, the vehicles can be dismissed to serve other patrons. Self-driving cars will also increase the mobility of the disabled, elderly, and those too young to drive.

        I don’t know that this assumption is as strong as you think it is.

        1. $: If the government will stay out of the way, we will find out whether my “assumption” is right in about 10 years or so.

          1. At that point my only curiosity will be how strident of a defender you’ll be for people who don’t want to give up driving.

            1. Your insurance company will just jack up your rates to the hilt because of the added liability. The free market will make you give up driving.

              1. And knowing that, being good with driverless means being good with it being forced upon everyone. A stance that doesn’t quite seem libertarian.

                1. You keep saying “forced” as if you aren’t already forced.

                  But you’re forced to carry insurance, prove your ability by getting an renewing a driver’s license, etc. You’re forced to have emission controls, follow CAFE standards, air bags, etc.

                  In other words, 95% of the cost of operating a vehicle is already forced costs. And you’re going to bitch about just the next 5%? The battle has already been lost.

                  1. You’re right, if I’m going to be forced into sex then I might as well just shut up and expect anal.

                2. “forced upon everyone” — by market forces. You have a problem with that? You want the government to subsidize your insurance at everyone else’s expense?

                  If 99% of the cars on the road are autonomous and have 10 times the safety record of human-driven cars, why should everyone else have to subsidize your insurance so you can remain a danger to everyone else on the cheap?

                  Or IOW, if market forces make everyone else’s insurance so much cheaper that you feel “forced” to comply, why is that anybody’s problem but yours?

                  Or maybe you mean the government will see that one car out of 100 is far more dangerous than others and require better insurance and better training? So, government coercion is at fault and you blame Ron.

    1. Why is this any different than forcing driver’s licenses upon us?

  4. This is outrageous.

    Nah, come on! This is part of “Making America Grating Again”!

    Remember way back when what was good for General Motors was good for America?

  5. This is the one issue compared to all others where I think it is appropriate to say:


    Of all the issues that people fear-monger on, fatal vehicular accidents has the body count to merit intervention. You want to drive your trunk, feel the wheel and your tires on the road — fuck you, I don’t care. Because you find pleasure in an action is not a justification for doing said act.

    The day driverless cars are 99.9% safe is the day that fighting against it will mean fighting against the no-harm principle of liberty. Today with no alternatives we ought to have the right to drive vehicles; in the future when such driverless cars exist — it would be nothing less than reckless endangerment for you to stubbornly use your old car.

    1. Because you find pleasure in an action is not a justification for doing said act.

      And there are millions of drug users in jail to prove it!

      1. You misconstrue my words. Those poor souls rotting unjustly in jail really have no bearing on my arguments. Those condemned drug users affect only themselves; the only harm that might happen will be to themselves (some bring emotional and physical harm to those around them, I concede that point from the onset).

        But these people who would claim they would forsake safer alternatives just to satisfy a base desire of enjoying driving a car. They must stand atop the mountain of hundreds of thousands of dead, bloody, corpses and explain to me why their pleasure justifies perpetual slaughter so great and vast that it ranks top-3 on the scale of American death.


        *raises hand*

        Justify your base desire atop the corpse of the slain you knew… I’m waiting and could be moved if your arguments are persuasive.

    2. I’d rather have freedom than safety, but maybe that’s because I’m not an authoritarian. You can have your spying, DRM-filled self-driving vehicles, but leave me out of it. I don’t care how safe they are.

  6. stop using the term crony-capitalism. If the situation involves any kind of government interference then by definition it isnt capitalism. Are you morons not aware of dictionaries? i’m getting really sick of this, get your shit together reason.

  7. The ATF says I manufacture a firearm if I join two pieces together.

    Why isn’t uber a manufacturer when it reprograms a Taurus?

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.