Mercedes has the most autonomous capable cars available for consumers today. Level 3 autonomy is available for sale in the Mercedes-Benz EQS sedans and S-Class. Mercedes calls the system Drive Pilot. It can handle most driving requirements, but a driver must still jump in and take control if required.
With this new era of self-driving cars comes a new consciousness of what autonomous-driving vehicles bring. This has been highlighted by Ford’s application for a new patent which includes a feature that the car will drive itself to an impound lot under certain conditions. If the driver or owner doesn’t meet obligations agreed to, or someone or something considers them unfit to operate the vehicle, it can activate itself and head to the closest impound lot.
If a vehicle owner ignores warnings about missed payments, a vehicle could begin disabling features like cruise controls, air conditioning, the radio, and GPS. It could send beeps and reminders designed to irritate drivers to pay attention to them. If those don’t work, it could lock drivers out or drive itself to the impound lot. Finally, the car could send itself to jail for non-payment.
Ford has taken the public position that it does not plan to implement any of these features shortly. Many companies submit patents for features or technologies that never reach the market.
It also raises the question about autonomous cars in general. Southern states, like Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, and New York State, make considerable income from fines and tickets. A survey from the Urban Institute shows that state and local governments make sixteen billion from penalties annually.
They found that states and local governments have ramped up speeding ticket enforcement in response to budgetary shortfalls. However, since that money comes back to the departments, some may consider it a conflict of interest.
California makes the most money from these fines at one billion dollars. Depending on the state, it varies from 0.4 to 0.7 percent of its revenue. For example, Alabama makes 0.7 percent of revenue from fines. But when it comes to municipalities, they produce considerably more. The fines and fees justice center found that some cities make up over 10% of traffic ticket writing. They also do some alarming trends in traffic ticket writing. For instance, in 2019, Henderson, La, a town of 2,000, collected $1.7 million in fines, 89 percent of their general revenues. That trend is also seen across the country.
By their very nature, the autonomous car does not speed. It does not park; it does not run red lights. It does not break the law. So those that can afford the autonomous car will not be paying for traffic tickets. The burden of financing a municipality may become placed on poor Americans or new taxes for electric and autonomous vehicles.
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