Ban Self-Driving Cars To Avoid ‘Back To The Future’-Style Craziness: Burke

 Ald. Edward Burke (left) and the character Doc Brown, played by Christopher Lloyd.

CITY HALL — Dueling versions of the future of Chicago’s streets were on display Monday at City Hall as aldermen weighed whether to ban self-driving cars from the city’s roads.

Ald. Edward Burke (14th) warned that the City Council needs to ban the automated vehicles to prevent someone as “crazy” as movie character Doc Brown, inventor of a DeLorean sports car time machine in the “Back To The Future” film trilogy, from endangering the public.

“There is nothing preventing someone from doing the same thing, because there is no law,” Burke said, after showing a clip from the ’80s classic.

The joint session of the City Council’s Finance and Transportation committees took no action Monday, agreeing to explore a suggestion from a representative of several car manufacturers to include an expiration date in the ordinance to allow the technology to develop.

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Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) warned that if the technology comes into widespread use, it could result in the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs, as delivery drivers and public transportation workers are replaced by companies adopting the autonomous vehicles.

“This will be a job killer,” Beale said. “We need to move forward in a professional manner that protects public safety.”

 Christopher Lloyd played Doc Brown in the

Christopher Lloyd played Doc Brown in the “‘Back To The Future” films.View Full Caption

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Burke said he was spurred to act by the Illinois General Assembly’s passage of a state law that would block cities from banning self-driving cars. Laurel Patrick, a spokeswoman for Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, said the bill was under review and declined to say whether he planned to sign the bill.

However, Chan D. Lieu, representing the Self-Driving Coalition for Safer Streets — made up of Uber, Lyft, Waymo as well as Ford and Volvo — said the benefit of self-driving cars would far outweigh any drawbacks by taking “human error” out of driving decisions.

“That could significantly reduce fatalities,” Lieu said.

The measure under consideration would permit car manufacturers to test self-driving cars. Each car would require a $550 permit, and carry $5 million worth of insurance.

Violations of the ordinance would come with an initial fine of $2,500 with additional violations triggering a $5,000 fine.

 

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