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Are Autonomous Vehicles In Our Future?

1173 words - 5 pages

Are autonomous vehicles in our future? According to a paper that was recently release by ENO center for Transportation, Preparing a Nation for Autonomous Vehicles (AV); we could see the introduction of such vehicles inside the next decade. The paper was written by the 2012 Eno Fellow Daniel J. Fagnant. In his paper, Daniel explores the potential benefits on society from the introduction of AV, their barriers to implementation and it discusses several policy recommendations to AV implementation. Meet George Jetson! Now you may be asking yourself what exactly is an autonomous vehicle? Autonomous vehicles are vehicles that rely solely on automation for operation. These vehicles are capable of sensing its environment and planning and navigating its path without human intervention. While on the other hand semiautonomous vehicle are vehicles that can handle specified driving functions (Lane departure warning, self parking) without human intervention.

During the course of the paper, Daniel identified several potential benefits that could be achieved from the possible introduction if AV vehicles. For starters, he believes that we could see a dramatic reduction in vehicle crashes. The paper identified that 5.5 million vehicle crashes occur yearly in the United States. Of those 5.5 million vehicle crashes, 93% or 5.1 million of those crashes identify human cause as the primary factor. Whereas the paper does not go as far as to associate a percentage to the possible decrease in vehicle crashes upon the introduction of AV, we can deduce that there is a lot of potential here. In addition to making vehicle safer it is believed that this technology could also reduce traffic congestion through the use of vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V), which is a dynamic wireless exchange of data between nearby vehicles that offers the opportunity for significant safety improvements and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communications which is a wireless exchange of critical safety and operational data between vehicles and highway infrastructure, intended primarily to avoid or mitigate motor vehicle crashes but also to enable a wide range of other safety, mobility, and environmental benefits. Additionally, AV could impact travel behavior by giving mobility back to the elderly, t disabled persons as well as providing mobility to those that are too young to drive. The advent could hearken in an entirely new business model when it comes to how personal travel is provided. Other concepts that are discussed under the theme of travel-behavior impacts are AV self parking and the expansion of Car and ride sharing programs. Then finally there are the potential impacts on Freight transportation. E.g. the mining company Rio Tinto is already using 10 self-driv¬ing ore trucks, with plans to expand to 150 vehicles within four years. Now, on one hand we see increases in proficiencies and decrease cost (labor) but AV could also have an adverse impact on employment rate. Driverless mining trucks...

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