How Self-Driving Cars Will Change Transportation
Group predicts that fuel efficiency and speeds will increase and that driver’s licenses could be a thing of the past.
We’ve heard lots of projections on when autonomous cars will become available to the general public, and Google has already logged more than 300,000 miles with its fleet of self-driving Priuses. They still would cost as much as a Ferrari. However, that will change as mainstream automakers such as General Motors jump into the game.
Now scholars and researchers at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) are not only predicting that autonomous cars will make up 75 percent of vehicles on the road by 2040, but they also forecast how this takeover by robo-cars will have huge ramifications on infrastructure, personal mobility and attitudes.
Alberto Broggi, IEEE senior member and professor of computer engineering at the University of Parma in Italy, spoke with MSN Autos and notes that building the infrastructure to accommodate any form of intelligent transportation is often the biggest barrier to widespread adoption. But he contends that autonomous cars will need less infrastructure, not more, in some cases.
“More cars will fit on the same road, traffic will be less chaotic, and therefore there will be no need to build more roads and expand the road network,” says Broggi, who was the director of a 2010 project that saw two driverless cars successfully complete an 8,000-mile road trip from Parma to Shanghai.
A byproduct of increased and efficient traffic flow will be faster speeds.
Dedicated lanes like those for carpool vehicles could be made available for self-driving cars to streamline traffic. This new form of dense traffic flow would also allow cars to travel more safely while going faster, with closer gaps between them. In this scenario, Broggi says that “speed limits of up to 100 mph are absolutely possible by 2040.”
If all cars on the road are autonomous, according to IEEE traffic lights and stops signs won't be necessary, since cars will be able to communicate with one another to avoid crashing. “Intersections will be equipped with sensors, cameras and radars that can monitor and control traffic flow to help eliminate driver collisions and promote a more efficient flow of traffic,” Broggi says. “The cars will be operating automatically, thereby eliminating the need for traffic lights.”
Driverless cars coupled with car sharing could also make personal transportation available to a wider range of people, regardless of age or physical ability. It could also dramatically alter whether people even need a driver license. “People do not need a license to sit on a train or a bus,” said Azim Eskandarian, director of the IEEE’s Center for Intelligent Systems Research, in a statement. “In a full-autonomy case in which no driver intervention will be allowed, the car will be operating. So there will not be any special requirements for drivers or occupants to use the vehicle as a form of transportation, but the vehicles will obviously need many more certifications and should meet new standards.”
The IEEE does acknowledge one barrier that technology can’t solve: consumer acceptance. “Drivers and passengers are hesitant to believe in the technology enough to completely hand over total control,” says Jeffrey Miller, IEEE member and associate professor of computer systems engineering at the University of Alaska-Anchorage. But he added that drivers would slowly become acclimated to the car taking control through driver-assist systems such as parking assistance, automatic braking systems and collision prevention that are now available and becoming more common.
“Over the next 28 years,” Miller added, “use of more automated technologies will spark a snowball effect of acceptance, and driverless vehicles will dominate the road.”
Doug Newcomb has been covering car technology for more than 20 years for outlets ranging from Rolling Stone to Edmunds.com. In 2008, he published his first book, "Car Audio for Dummies" (Wiley). He lives and drives in Hood River, Ore., with his wife and two kids, who share his passion for cars and car technology, especially driving and listening to music.
Gosh people. Lighten up. We are talking about 30 years from now!
For those thinking that 100 MPH cars would use more gas, not necessarily so. They would be drafting each other with almost no wind resistance to overcome. Could easily double the gas mileage on a long trip at expressway speeds.
As someone who would be almost 90 years old in 2040, I would love to still have my mobility to get around without having everyone in fear of their lives if I lose control of the two ton piece of metal. Wish they had these now.
"...If all cars on the road are autonomous, according to IEEE traffic lights and stops signs won't be necessary...
Well, ALL cars will not be autonomous, ever. Some people will want to drive. And some will want to ride bikes, motorcycles, and other vehicles. So signs and signals will always be necessary.
I MYSELF would want only autonomous driving on the INTERSTATE highway. City roads I can handle. But long monontomous drives on highways are too taxing. Like an advanced Cruse Control.
Nah I'll stick with the Classic
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