There is no doubt that the future of transportation will include autonomous vehicles (AVs) and driverless cars. This technology has the potential to transform transportation by creating more efficient traffic flow (which means less congestion), better fuel efficiency, and increased productivity as ‘drivers’ can spend less time in the car answering e-mails, texts and phone calls without worrying about distracted driving. The safety aspect is also key in that cars that ‘talk’ to each other will significantly reduce accidents. Additionally, these vehicles will provide vastly increased mobility options for those with disabilities and older who may no longer be able to operate a vehicle.
The research into this technology has exploded in recent years and many states and cities have been looking to get in on the testing. Testing is also going on in cities around the world. This map shows where the testing here in the U.S. and around the world is taking place. As a result, the federal government has stepped up its role with the U.S. Department of Transportation issuing revised guidance in 2017 for the safe testing and deployment of this rapidly growing technology. Additionally, several bills have been introduced in Congress addressing this topic.
While the positive impacts of this technology are numerous, there are also several challenges that must be addressed such as cybersecurity, data security, liability issues in the event of an accident, insurance, and upgrades or redesign of existing infrastructure to accommodate this new technology. According to research conducted by the National League of Cities, only six percent of the US's largest cities' transportation plans include any language on the potential effect of driverless technology on mobility. For example, the lines on America’s four million miles of roads must be solid, bright and preferably white so they can be picked up by computer vision gear on AVs. And sensors must be added to roadside infrastructure so that vehicles and infrastructure are able to ‘communicate’. Cities are also examining the potential loss of revenue derived from parking and red light and speed cameras.