Joann Muller (R) and Selika Josiah Talbott (L). Photo: Axios screenshot

A lack of federal policy has hampered the autonomous car industry's transparency with communities where the vehicles are tested, American University professor Selika Josiah Talbott said during a virtual Axios event on Tuesday.

What she's saying: "We need guidelines. Right now, it's like the Wild West. We need bumpers in place so we don't have rogue actions testing vehicles on the roadway and possibly causing harm to the general public," Talbott said.

The big picture: A patchwork of state laws on autonomous vehicles exists because "state by state, they have different implications for the use of their drivers license, for the revenue that these cities and governments get from our driving actions each and every day," Talbott said.

  • Although the federal government has said it doesn't want to impede innovation, Talbott said that "from one state to the next, we don't know who's driving these vehicles or having these vehicles on our roadway, we don't know the crash rate of these vehicles."
  • When driverless cars are tested in communities, people are often unaware. "We don't have PSAs out there, we're not informing the general public of what is happening in their neighborhoods and in their community," she said.

The bottom line: "When it comes to who should be acting and how they should be acting, we have a tug of war between localities and the federal government," Talbott said.

Watch the event.

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