Professional drivers in New York want self-driving cars banned for 50 years

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Marco Verch/Flickr
Have you wondered if people who drive for a living feel threatened by the prospect of self-driving cars? Here’s a sign that at least some of them do.

Concerned that self-driving cars will mean lost jobs, New York’s Upstate Transportation Association (UTA) wants a 50-year ban on self-driving cars. The association fears Uber and Lyft will shift to self-driving ridesharing, cutting thousands of jobs, according to CNN.

Uber promised 13,000 jobs in upstate New York, CNN reported. The UTA, which represents taxi, livery, medical transportation, and paratransit (transportation for people with disabilities) drivers, isn’t buying Uber’s promise.

“It doesn’t do anything for the local economy to have driverless cars,” John Tomassi, the president of the Upstate Transportation Association, told CNN. “I’m sure there’s a little bit of job creation, but nothing that will match the number of jobs lost.”

The UTA isn’t the only New York drivers’ group that is down on self-driving cars. The Independent Drivers Guild, a New York City group that represents 45,000 drivers for hire, believes current New York laws ban self-driving cars already and that the group will fight to keep those laws in place. The law they focus on has a weakness, however, because it refers to drivers, not vehicles.

Speaking to the point of the New York law that requires drivers to always have one hand on the wheel, Ed Walters, a Georgetown University Law Center robotic law teacher, told CNN, “New York law requires that when people drive a car they have a hand on the wheel, but there’s no requirement that self-driving cars have anything on the wheel.”

Uber and Lyft are testing self-driving cars in other states, but Uber is seeking permission to offer its ridesharing services throughout the state. It doesn’t appear that the drivers groups are getting any love from the state government on this issue.

On Monday, January 9, 2017, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo presented a plan to allow ridesharing throughout the state. “Ride sharing is bringing transportation into the 21st century and we are committed to ensuring that it becomes a reality statewide,” Governor Cuomo said. “It provides economic opportunity and a cost-effective alternative to transportation, and we must ensure that all residents outside of New York City have access to its benefits. This action will spur economic development across upstate and further position our upstate cities as cities of the 21st century.”

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