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Gov. Inslee’s ‘disaster’ comment distracts from underlying issue

Gov. Inslee wants only good news about autonomous vehicles. The media, he says, wants the industry to be a "disaster." (File, Associated Press)

During a celebratory event with the state’s “largest and active” angel investment group in the Pacific Northwest, Gov. Jay Inslee threw the media under the bus as he promoted his dystopian vision of autonomous vehicles.

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The governor, according to GeekWire, said:

“We know that the press wants to write a story that autonomous vehicles will be a disaster. I want to write a story that the State of Washington will have more autonomous vehicle entrepreneurs than any place in the U.S.”

Probably not a coincidence that he said that in front of a bunch of investors.

He did not clarify that comment, GeekWire reports. But it follows the nationwide news of a pedestrian being killed by a fully autonomous test vehicle. A woman walking across the street outside of a crosswalk at night was struck in Tempe, Arizona.

Inslee’s office previously told GeekWire that safety is the governor’s “top priority” when it comes to autonomous vehicles. Last year, Inslee signed an executive order to support safe testing and operation of autonomous vehicles.

“Washington state is already a leader in autonomous vehicle technology. We are an early-adopter that welcomes innovation and the safe testing and operation of AVs,” Inslee said in 2017. “AVs could help save countless lives, reclaim time spent in traffic, improve mobility and be an important tool in our efforts to combat climate change.”

Few would oppose a world where people aren’t being killed by cars. Saying the media would prefer writing stories about how driverless vehicles will be a “disaster” is false.

Nobody wants to live in a city where autonomous vehicles are running pedestrians over. But when it happens — even once — it’s important to call into question the technology and hold those responsible accountable. Reuters reports the family of the woman killed settled with Uber Technologies Inc. over the fatal crash.

There are five companies registered with Washington state to run autonomous vehicles. Executive Director of the Washington State Transportation Commission Reema Griffith previously said the state won’t be ready for them until at least 2023.

Inslee also predicted that Washington state will be home to the first electric ferries during that same event with investors. The Legislature set aside $600,000 of the state’s 2018 transportation budget to study the idea. According to preliminary studies, the ferries would house banks of batteries below deck to power them.

A spokesperson for Washington State Ferries told KING 5 that we could see the first electric vessels in the fleet within five years.

That would be a great accomplishment. Hopefully, no whales are killed while the state tests them.

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