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Self Driving Cars: Blog Series

THEY’RE HERE!  DRIVERLESS CARS ARE ALREADY AMONG US

Just last week our office manager was driving on the George Washington Memorial Parkway when she glanced to her right and was shocked to see that the “driver” of the vehicle in the lane next to her was reading the newspaper.  After adjusting her speed to move away from what had to be a lunatic (or a telekinetic), she then realized that the car was driving itself.  That’s right, semi-autonomous and autonomous (driverless) vehicles are already being tested and are operating on streets all over the world.  Driverless buses are operating in Helsinki, driverless taxis in Singapore, and Uber is introducing a fleet of driverless cars in Pittsburgh.

And that’s only the beginning.  Google has invented technology that detects police cars (and in some cases automatically moves your car out of the way or to the side of the road) and universities, like Virginia Tech, are investing in research to create “Intelligent Infrastructure”  to marry the driverless technology in vehicles to other components of our infrastructure (like signs, signals, and roads).  There’s even talk of designing a fully-automated city!  While much of this is still off in the future, what once sounded purely like science fiction is becoming closer and closer to reality.

Those who enjoy driving may lament the coming age of autonomous technology, but it is still likely to be several years before the driverless cars become prevalent.  And even after, it is likely that there will always be opportunities for drivers to “stretch it out” somewhere on an open road.  But given that most auto collisions are caused by human error, technology that can reduce injuries and deaths on our highways can only be a good thing. Not only that, driverless cars can provide those who are physically unable to drive, or who have difficulty driving, a chance to get back out and about, restoring their freedom and mobility.  Studies also suggest that driverless cars could reduce congestion, reduce the costs of infrastructure, and allow riders to make their commuting time more productive.

Undoubtedly though, the advent of this technology will be a paradigm-changing event that will require profound changes in our laws, regulations, insurance policies, habits, and thinking.  But like it or not, the change is coming.  So join us for further posts as we explore together, some of the technology, and discuss its implications for the future.

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