Chair, Council Member Rodriguez's Opening Statement
Good morning and welcome to the Transportation Committee's hearing on "The Future of Driverless Vehicles in New York City." My name is Ydanis Rodriguez and I am the chair of the committee. We are joined today by council members...
We are here today because we know the car is undergoing a technological revolution and we want to know how this will impact our streets, our industries and what we should be doing as a city to best prepare. Since the first Ford Model-T rolled off the assembly-line, advances in motor vehicle technology have progressed at rapid pace. Today, motor vehicles are safer and more environmentally friendly than ever before.
While this committee has sought to promote alternative modes of transportation, it is not lost on me that the personal car remains the preferred way to get around for over a million New Yorkers. As technology evolves and older models become obsolete, we know that our city must be prepared, with an understanding of how to adapt with the technological shifts to promote the best public policy.
This is why we recently heard an important bill about how to encourage environmentally friendly electric vehicles with new infrastructure. We hope that with the support of the Speaker and our colleagues we can pass this bill, sponsored by Council Member Constantinides and myself, very soon.
It is also why we are here today, to learn from industry leaders and advocates about what we can expect and what we need for autonomous vehicles to become a reality, as well as suggestions regarding regulation and safety. The crash avoidance technology installed in driverless cars represents a major advancement and one that is intriguing to this committee that has placed such a focus on eliminating traffic deaths. Driver distraction, negligence and recklessness contribute to an unconscionable percentage of motor vehicle related injuries and deaths and if new technology can help avoid crashes, that is a positive prospect.
New York City must be prepared to embrace the future that is all but imminent. We cannot and will not be a city that stifles innovation, nor suppresses market demand. However, we will search for a balance that places the public good at the forefront of our work and therefore think carefully about how autonomous vehicles interact with our city and its millions of people. Newly released Federal guidelines regarding driverless vehicles are a clear signal that we are getting closer to the future.
However, many questions must be answered before we arrive. What will autonomous vehicles mean for the thousands of people that work on existing industries like the taxi and for-hire industry?What are the prospects that goods will be transported by trucks with this technology? How can we protect autonomous vehicles from life-threatening hacks into their systems? Is there new infrastructure needed for these vehicles and who will be tasked with funding it? What are the opportunities for New Yorkers to get some of these important jobs? Are there issues specific to New York City not addressed by the federal guidelines that our city should be prepared to regulate? This hearing is intended to start that conversation.
We are interested in hearing from all parties: government, industry, and advocates. Driverless vehicles will reshape the future of personal transportation, and this Committee wants to ensure that our goals are represented throughout this time of change. Today we want to hear about what we have in store, how it will affect New York and how New York can help to shape the entry of these vehicles onto our streets. We know that technology will drive our future and it is why I constantly seek to lift up STEM education in my own district.
I understand that our DOT and TLC have been considering this topic themselves and I am eager to hear their thoughts and ideas about this new technology.
Before we begin, I'd like to wish a congratulations and best wishes to our policy analyst Jonathan Masserano who is in Washington DC today preparing for his wedding. I would also like to thank the committee staff here today, Counsel, Kelly Taylor, Policy Analysts Gafar Zaaloff and Emily Rooney, Finance Analyst Chima Obichere as well as my staff, Carmen De La Rosa-very soon, Assembly Woman De La Rosa and Chief of Staff, Russell Murphy.