Israel Speeds Ahead with Self-Driving Cars

Monday, April 29, 2019 |  David Lazarus

Israel has become a hub for computer systems that navigate self-driving cars. And the next step in getting automatic vehicles on the road is now underway.

“Our goal is to fill Israel with autonomous, efficient and electric transportation on demand, which will reduce traffic and congestion,” said Anat Bonstein, director of the Fuel Choices and Smart Mobility Initiative at the Prime Minister’s Office.

Bonstein said that self-driving cars will be tested in a large-scale pilot program on designated city streets around Israel. While other companies have been testing autonomous vehicles in a limited number of “safe” locations, the Israeli government has given approval to begin a much wider trial of the smart cars in real-life driving conditions.

All of this is possible because many of the research and development centers of smart vehicle systems are located in Israel and the Israeli government has invested heavily in making the Jewish nation a global center for self-driving technology.

Prime Minister Netanyahu has approved an easing of regulations allowing expansive driverless car trials. “We have a mandate to turn Israel into an international R&D center in the segment and that’s happening also in terms of regulations,” Bonstein said. “Companies like Volkswagen and Mobileye didn’t simply decide to test service in Israel –they looked elsewhere, but they identified the potential here both in terms of innovation and in supportive (government) regulations.”

Government support for self-driving cars is a crucial step forward in getting autonomous vehicles off the blackboard and onto the highways. There needs to be investment into making sure roads are passable for self-driving cars and liability laws need to be worked out in the event of the inevitable accident. Israelis already suffer from an extremely high rate of road accidents and traffic deaths due to their speedy and aggressive driving habits. Autonomous cars may not be completely accident-proof, but they will most likely make life safer on the fast-paced Israeli roads, for Israelis and tourists alike.

PHOTO: Moshe Shai/FLASH90

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