A bill currently moving through the Indiana legislature requires that an autonomus vehicle, i.e., self-driving vehicle with no brakes or steering wheel, still requires that a licensed driver be present, therefore excluding the blind from using such vehicles.
The NFB of Indiana encourages all blind and low vision Indiana residents to call the Indiana Senate to voice your concerns about this Bill. What follows is a letter written to the President of the Indiana Senate by NFB of Indiana President ron Brown.
February 26, 2018
The Honorable David Long
200 Washington Street
Indianapolis, IN 46204
Dear Senate President Long,
I am writing on behalf of the National Federation of the Blind of Indiana in order to express our opposition to House Bill ! 1341 and to urge the Indiana Senate not to consider the bill as it is currently written. The NFB of Indiana is the Indiana affiliate of the National Federation of the Blind, the country’s largest organization of blind people. We have members from all corners of Indiana and therefore have a keen interest in seeing our state become a leader in the deployment of autonomous vehicles (AVs).
We wholly support the emergence and deployment of AVs and their associated technologies. These innovations would have demonstrable positive impact on the lives of blind people. House Bill 1341 would needlessly hinder the ability of blind people to access and utilize AVs on Indiana roads and highways, which is the driving force behind our opposition to the bill.
One of the issues of most concern to us as blind consumers hoping to use AVs is prohibitive and discriminatory licensing requirements. Such mechanisms would impede our access to this game-changing technology and we are thus opposed to them, especially in the context of Level 4 and Level 5 AVs. We assert that if a vehicle is designed without any expectation of human intervention in any dynamic driving tasks, which Level 4 and Level 5 AVs will be, that there should be no restrictive licensing requirements that would bar our full and equal access to those vehicles.
House Bill 1341 would impose such restrictive licensing procedures and surely inhibit our ability to enjoy the benefits of AVs along with the rest of society. There are several specific places in the bill that present concerns:
* Page 10, Chapter 5, Section 1, Lines 13-15: “In addition to the requirements described in IC 9-26.5-7-2, a Level 4 vehicle being operated on a public highway outside of its operational design domain shall have a licensed driver in the vehicle during vehicle operation.”
* Page 11, Chapter 7, Section 2, Line 31: “Any person or entity wishing to operate or platoon an automated vehicle on a public highway shall: (3) possess a valid driver’s license.”
* Page 12, Chapter 7, Section 2, Line 17: “In addition to the requirements specified in subsections (a), (b), (c), and (d), and except as provided in subsection (f), any person or entity wishing to operate a Level 4 vehicle on a public highway shall have a responsible occupant in the vehicle who: (1) possesses a valid driver’s license.”
Any requirement for a “valid driver’s license” is inherently discriminatory toward and exclusive of blind people. It is also important to note that Level 4 AVs will not have the capacity to operate outside of their operational design domain, in addition to having no requirement for human intervention, which indicates a potential misunderstanding as to the nature of AV technology on the part of the framers of this bill.
The promise of autonomous vehicle technology is immense. Blind people, for example, will gain greater independence and access to reliable transportation, which will in turn promote greater access to employment opportunities and community engagement. None of these benefits will be realized if lawmakers irresponsibly design policies that actively confound and undermine access. It is therefore our strong recommendation that the Indiana state Senate opt not to consider House Bill 1341 and instead draft a new bill in order to promote maximum access and inclusion for all potential end users, particularly blind people. We additionally urge you to include us in the drafting process of any similar future legislative efforts.