Gone are the days when most cities’ regulators thought that autonomous vehicles would create more traffic problems rather than solve them. Today, we understand that the autonomous cars are the needed component that will solve traffic problems in our cities.
For instance, transportation has been a problem in DC for a long time. Traffic congestion and increased number of traffic related fatalities are the principal problems. The district has been supporting self-driving car testing projects and is now making preparations to welcome the industry-wide revolution that is expected to happen soon.
How can autonomous vehicles help Washington DC?
Several independent car manufacturers aim to release their first commercial self-driving vehicles by 2020. Eric Coelingh, a technology expert allied to Volvo, says that he is confident that driverless cars will have more benefits than downsides.
Here are some of the benefits that autonomous vehicles have over the human-driven vehicles;
Reduced Number of Traffic-Related Fatalities
According to Coelingh, driverless cars will significantly lessen the number of deaths that are related to traffic. Surveys show that the number of traffic-related deaths in US is likely to reduce from 33,000 a year to 11,300 if 90% of cars on the US roads were autonomous. This is because autonomous vehicles are designed to avoid human errors, which account for a significant number of accidents happening on the streets. Besides preventing human error, autonomous vehicles also have a higher efficiency in braking, a necessary feature required in emergency cases. The reduction in fatalities implies saved lives and saved medical bills.
Reduced Traffic Congestion
Eric Coelingh further states that autonomous vehicles will significantly reduce traffic congestion and the time people take to reach a destination. Experts claim that the self- driving cars will save more than 1 billion hours a day lost by commuters worldwide. As such, people will spend the saved time doing other valuable activities to further make the economy better.
Increased highway capacity
Experts from Columbia University found out that autonomous vehicles will enhance the number of vehicles using a road. According to the specialists, a road with 100% autonomous vehicles will improve the number of vehicles on that road by 12,000 vehicles per hour per lane. This is because the safe vehicle distance will reduce from 115 feet for human-driven vehicles to 16 feet for autonomous vehicles driving at a speed of 75mph.
Low fuel consumption
Autonomous vehicles are programmed with autonomous systems that support efficient communication between vehicles. As such, a vehicle can detect what another vehicle is going to do. This interface reduces the issue of hard breaking, one of the factors that increase fuel consumption. Furthermore, autonomous vehicles will be traveling at a similar speed hence avoiding problems of fluctuating engine speed. Vehicles operating in a continuous engine speed consume less fuel.
Washington DC Is In Progress to Welcome the Autonomous Car Revolution
DC has been working alongside other partners to implement legislation and infrastructure to support autonomous vehicles. Andrew Trueblood, chief of staff to DC’s Mayor of Planning and Economic development, confirmed that they understood that autonomous vehicles were on the way coming and they needed to make early plans to accommodate the revolution.
Despite the fact that autonomous vehicles will positively impact the society, cities face a regulatory challenge. Experts say that cities will need to change several transportation policies and other transport-related industries to match the needs of the incoming revolution. One of the industries that may need to adjust its policies and procedures is the insurance industry as it may need to change the Washington DC insurance requirements.
Andrew Trueblood attested that Washington DC’s regulators were already in progress making the necessary autonomous vehicle legislations. The district has also partnered with organizations like Sidewalk Labs and Transportation for America to implement an infrastructure that supports the driverless cars.
Andrew Trueblood says that autonomous vehicles would help Washington DC meet its Vision Zero by reducing traffic congestion and reducing the number of accidents in the District.