Google, General Motors push to get self-driving cars on the road

Leaders from Google and General Motors are urging Congress to create legislation that would standardize testing for self-driving cars.

In testimony Tuesday, they argued that although self-driving vehicles are only a few years from being on the market, inconsistent laws and testing rules across the country could impede that progress.

"We have six states right now that do allow autonomous cars to be tested on the road, but the legislation in those states are very different as you go from one to another," CNET's Roadshow editor in chief Tim Stevens said on "CBS This Morning" Wednesday. "Some require special licenses, some require special equipment in the cars ... and the only way these cars are going to get better is to test them on every road in the country."

Will driverless cars make the roads safer?

But one robotics expert at the hearing spoke of the safety risks of rushing the technology, saying, "There is no question that someone is going to die in this technology," and that self-driving cars are "absolutely not ready."

In February, a Google self-driving car crashed into the side of a public school bus in California. No one was hurt.

In addition to safety risks, there are other challenges, including interaction with human-controlled cars, inclement weather and cost.

"There are certainly a lot of vulnerabilities in these cars right now because they are early and they are still being tested, " Stevens said.

For Stevens, these are "short-term" mistakes that are more reasons for increasing testing across the country. Citing a 2008 study that showed over 90 percent of all crashes involved human error, Stevens said self-driving cars would be "a lot safer in the long run (and) save a lot of lives on the road."

Hands off the Wheel

Self-driving cars would also bring financial benefits, especially for ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft. The cars run 24 hours a day, which would eliminate the need for drivers and, in turn, costs for overtime, benefits and insurance. Autonomous cars would also be smaller and lighter -- because of a decreased need for built-in safety equipment -- and environmentally friendly, reducing fuel consumption.

Some of the technology has already hit the road. Tesla has semi-autonomous cars, and Volvo and Mercedes-Benz are expected to launch cars that can drive on the highway, even with hands off the wheel for a limited time.

"But the actual 'get in the car, take a nap in your car and wake up at your destination' kind of stuff, that's at least five years down the road for major metropolitan areas, and get into rural America, you're looking at 20 years or so," Stevens said.