A Car Full Of People With No One Driving

21 Jul 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

A Car Full Of People With No One Driving.

Ever since the days of the horse and buggy there has been a fundamental relationship between vehicle and driver. The U.K. on Sunday adopted a code of practice, which lays down the rules of the road for those testing automated (aka self-driving) vehicles in the region. Some models of autonomous vehicles, despite not having been designed for public roadways, have been making their way around pedestrian spaces like parks. We now look forward to working with industry to make this a reality.” As part of its new research and development initiative, the government is seeking proposals that address driverless vehicle safety, reliability, vehicle communications, and how they can help “give an aging population greater independence.” Successful bidders will be required to match any funding they receive from the government with their own money. But on July 19th, the Department for Transport (DfT) issued new rules surrounding the testing of driverless cars — a move that coincides with the government’s recent investments into making the U.K. a prime testing ground for this new technology.

Additionally, the new law states that automated vehicles being tested “should be fitted with a data recording device which is capable of capturing data from the sensor and control systems associated with the automated features as well as other information concerning the vehicle’s movement.” These changes to the DfT’s policy piggy back on a year of investments from the U.K. into driverless car technology, as the country looks to be a major player in this next era of vehicle development. It only stands to reason that if ridesharing companies transition to driverless fleets, and bring costs down and service reliability up, there is great potential for growth in this coming-soon-to-a-city-near-you arena.

Additionally, major manufacturers like Volvo, Tesla, and Mercedes have said that the first autonomous vehicles will be on the U.K.’s roads as early as 2018-2020. These types of technological innovations will not only continue to disrupt traditional approaches, but will catapult innovation in personal travel forward at an accelerated pace. Despite this advancement of the law, and general acceptance of the existence of the driverless car — even if they aren’t mainstream yet — controversy persists. As we start to see self-driving cars more widely on the streets in the next 5 to 15 years, this once seemingly futuristic concept will soon become reality.

A collision that occurred on July 1 in the U.S. involving one of Google’s driverless cars sent three of its employees who were testing the vehicle to the hospital. Chris Urmson who heads Google’s driverless car project wrote: It’s particularly telling that we’re getting hit more often now that the majority of our driving is on surface streets rather than freeways; this is exactly where you’d expect a lot of minor, usually-unreported collisions to happen.

Other drivers have hit us 14 times since the start of our project in 2009 (including 11 rear-enders), and not once has the self-driving car been the cause of the collision. People are driving less and getting driver’s licenses at a lower rate, as they choose mobility alternatives over the traditional dream of owning cars. Transit system usage is up — hitting the highest levels measured in 58 years — all while cities are adding bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure at a rapid pace.

Nonetheless, Google and other developers aren’t hiding their statistics showing that driverless cars are far less likely to instigate accidents than human-driven vehicles. The ultimate goal must therefore be to combine these different transit modes into a coherent whole, with burgeoning private-sector transportation initiatives, so that getting around cities is ever easier, equitable and enjoyable. Through research and interviews with city leaders on the current state of play with ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft, we found that cities are generally supportive. The Wall Street Journal reports that Toyota and some other companies are backing a $10 million testing ground at the University of Michigan for self-driving vehicles.

Although there is no one-size-fits-all policy that every place can or should apply, 66 percent of cities support ridesharing growth in their communities, and best practices are arising. How driverless vehicles are ultimately used — as either single occupancy or fully utilized carpooling machines — will weigh heavily on their ultimate utility to places and their overall environmental footprint. This overall enhanced access to data, from both public and private sources, is essential to making better current and future transportation choices in cities. Right now they are only in a handful of cities, but more extensive roll-outs nationwide would accord quite well with city planning and environmental goals.

These services are certainly popular, as can be seen with usage in a city like San Francisco, so just imagine what could be gained on a national scale. Culturally, we are moving in a direction where shared driverless vehicles would fit in well, with millennials showing enhanced preferences for sharing over ownership.

The smartphone has provided the platform for this shift, and the current generation of sharing-economy companies has been quick to capitalize and enhance this direction. We are exploring these issues around technology and mobility at the National League of Cities through a new research project launching later this summer.

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