In 2015, Marty McFly visited the future and discovered self-lacing shoes, holographic movies, and of course, flying cars.

Since then, Nike has made self-lacing shoes and all the biggest movies of the year can now be seen in 3D.

But whatever happened with those flying cars?

Well, don’t hold your breath on flying to Hawaii in the family mini-van for vacation anytime soon.

Forbes compiled a list of the top ten (10) innovations to watch out for in the automobile industry between 2015 and 2020. The top of the list? Autonomous vehicles and other smart technologies.

In fact, it’s estimated that there will be over 10 million self-driving cars on the road by 2020.

So, what do we do in the meantime?

Currently, 16 states, plus Washington D.C. have enacted legislation (either to open up regulations or tighten them down) for autonomous vehicles. So far this year, 33 states have introduced legislation related to autonomous vehicles – that’s up from 20 in 2016 and from 16 in 2015.

As we continue to think more and more about autonomous vehicles over the coming years, here are some things to consider that may not be as obvious as ensuring high safety standards:

  1. Licensing – Who can ride in a fully autonomous vehicle? If they aren’t driving, do they need a license? Can teenagers ride in them without adult supervision? Can children ride in them just like a school bus?
  2. Liability – In the instance that autonomous vehicles make mistakes on the road, to what liability standard will the technology and automotive companies be held? Will the driver be less liable than if they were driving a non-automated car? What if the driver fell asleep at the wheel and then the car crashed?
  3. Security – Certain standards will need to be met to keep vehicles from being hacked. Who should set these standards and how will they be enforced?
  4. Privacy – With integrated GPS technology, there will be terabytes of personal trip data logged, but who gets access to this data? Can companies buy and sell this data? How do we ensure that our right to privacy is not infringed upon?

In short, autonomous vehicles have the potential to change everything and they’re coming whether we’re ready for them or not. It is paramount that we start planning immediately and get the right stakeholders at the table from the start, including motor vehicle administrations, state police agencies, and transportation departments.

For more consideration:

NLC – Autonomous Vehicles: A Policy Preparation Guide

Eno Center for Transportation – Preparing a Nation for Autonomous Vehicles, Opportunities, Barriers, and Policy Recommendations