Aldermen consider tough regulations for self-driving cars

Chicago aldermen went “into the future” Monday, calling for tight regulations on driverless cars and envisioning a time when the automated vehicles could be hacked and used as weapons or cost thousands of residents their jobs.

Southwest Side Ald. Edward Burke, 14th, played a clip in City Council chambers of the film “Back to the Future” — though he referred to it as “Into the Future” — in a bid to illustrate the potential dangers of computer-driven cars now being developed by Google and other companies.

Burke warned that someone like Christopher Lloyd’s “crazy professor” character from the hit movie could do something reckless on the streets of Chicago with such untested technology.

A previous proposed City Council ban on computer-driven vehicles was scrapped because a measure being considered in Springfield would prohibit municipalities from completely outlawing them from city streets, Burke said.

Instead, Burke and Far South Side Ald. Anthony Beale, 9th, held a hearing on a plan to limit the cars to test programs run by manufacturers. Under their ordinance, companies that develop the cars would need to pay $500 for each permit for such a car in Chicago, and only employees or contractors of the companies would be allowed to operate them.

Aldermen debated the proposal but did not vote on it Monday, saying they want to get more information about the technology. A spokeswoman for Mayor Rahm Emanuel declined to comment about whether the administration supports the regulations.

Burke said the rules are needed in part to make sure “these robot vehicles” cannot be controlled remotely by people with ill intent. “Malicious trickery, vandalism and the more deadly threat of driverless cars falling into the hands of terrorists that could crash it into a crowded urban center, a building, an outdoor market or a festival, raises serious concerns,” he said.

And Burke said tests of autonomous vehicles have shown human drivers…

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