The automotive industry is in the process of being upended by the introduction of Autonomous Vehicle technologies. These are technologies that utilize the latest in laser (LIDAR), camera, and artificial intelligence systems in order to reduce a vehicles dependency on its driver during operation. Many car manufacturers and Silicon Valley companies have started rolling out these technologies in a piecemeal fashion, but much testing and verification is needed before fully autonomous vehicles hit the road without a driver behind the wheel.
The top priority for both the manufacturers and the government is to ensure that these vehicles are safe and effective in their operations. Given that Autonomous Vehicle technologies are still emerging and evolving, they will require significant attention to ensure these priorities are upheld.
Results thus far have been very promising and a future with driverless cars is quickly becoming a matter of when rather than if. Assuming their successful proliferation, one can expect massive reductions in emissions due to holistic changes from the transportation systems in place today. Efficiency could be the hallmark of these new transportation systems and all avenues will be explored to ensure that efficiency translates to cleaner air here in the Triangle region.
The Different Levels Of Autonomy
In many places across the country, employment and independent living rests on access to reliable transportation. Autonomous vehicles have the potential to provide new mobility options to millions of Americans, including the elderly and those with disabilities. One study suggests that automated vehicles could create new employment opportunities for approximately 2 million people with disabilities.
Autonomous vehicles have the potential to remove human error from the crash equation, which will help protect drivers and passengers, as well as bicyclists and pedestrians. Automated safety technologies included in vehicles on the road currently monitor safety risks and notify drivers to act to avoid a crash or other incident. These types of features could have lifesaving benefits in the US, where than 33,000 people died in motor vehicle-related crashes in 2018 (IIHS).
Economic and Social
Autonomous vehicles could deliver additional economic and additional societal benefits. A NHTSA study showed motor vehicle crashes in 2010 cost $242 billion in economic activity, including $57.6 billion in lost workplace productivity, and $594 billion due to loss of life and decreased quality of life due to injuries. Eliminating the vast majority of motor vehicle crashes could erase these costs.
Efficiency and Convenience
Roads filled with autonomous vehicles could cooperate to smooth traffic flow and reduce traffic congestion. Americans spent an estimated 6.9 billion hours in traffic delays in 2014, cutting into time at work or with family, and increasing fuel costs and vehicle emissions. A recent study stated that automated vehicles could free up as much as 50 minutes each day that had previously been dedicated to driving, putting that time and money to better use.