Let Them Innovate
Recently, a state representative in Illinois unveiled a bill that would allow car manufacturers to operate taxi services with self-driving cars.
There are several issues with this. First, the fact that a bill needed to be passed to allow car companies to develop this new, innovative service demonstrates that the government is operating under what Adam Thierer of the Mercatus Center calls the “precautionary principle.” In the absence of clear, demonstrable, imminent harm, companies ought to be given freedom to innovate and develop new ideas without heavy handed regulation or ex ante prohibitions.
The other problem with this bill can be found in its details. The bill limits only allows companies that make their own vehicles to access the self-driving taxi service market. This means that General Motors (GM) is eligible to enter this market but Uber is not. This is not surprising considering the fact that the elected official from Illinois said that GM approached him about sponsoring the bill.
Recently, GM has been falling behind in the race to deploy autonomous vehicles. Instead of trying more creative ideas, the car company decided to turn to their lobbyists. Their strategy is to ask government to exclude challengers so that they do not have to innovate and change.
Government should always resist granting any form of privilege to one firm over another. It is impossible for government to know which firms are going to succeed and which are not. Additionally, law ought to be generally applicable and treat every individual the same. By excluding Uber from this new market, they could be thwarting the next big innovation that could make the world a better place for everyone.