Your Next Vehicle: Who’s Driving?
Sunshine State readies for driverless cars to hit the road
Perhaps a self-driving car is in your future, and sooner than you think. Ford, BMW, Google, Lyft and Tesla are some of the companies saying they will have self-driving cars on the market by 2021. That’s just around the corner! Many companies are working on the complex technologies needed in these cars, such as sensors and artificial intelligence software. But the success of self-driving cars depends on much more than just technology. Areas such as public policy, laws and regulations, cyber security, insurance, licensing and the human-vehicle interface must be considered and modified to cope with the new environment.
MANY LEVELS OF SELF-DRIVING CARS
Self-driving cars are also called “assisted driving” and “autonomous vehicles.” The Society of Automotive Engineers, or SAE, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have developed a 0-to-5 scale to categorize automation. Level 0 means no automation. Level 5 is full self-driving under all conditions—the vehicle operates without a human driver or occupants. (“Levels of Autonomy” sidebar has more information on the SAE scale.)
SELF-DRIVING CARS WILL SAVE LIVES AND TIME
The key argument underpinning the development of self-driving cars is their potential to reduce the number of auto-related fatalities. Traffic accidents take the lives of more than 33,000 people annually in the United States. Most result from distracted driving. Automation systems do not get distracted. Self-driving cars promise better utilization of busy roadways. Their sensors allow vehicles to ride closer together, allowing more cars on the road and improving traffic conditions and
congestion. Autosteering, auto lane changing, traffic-aware cruise control and blind-spot detection all make driving easier and more comfortable.
When people are asked today if they want a self-driving car, 56 percent report that they are not sure they would. Distrust is often the initial reaction to any new technology. When cellphones and home PCs and the Int ernet were first introduced, people could not envision how they might use them. Familiarity and education made the difference.
THIS IS HAPPENING QUICKLY!
Most new vehicles have some Level 1 capabilities, such as cruise control and proximity warnings indicating your car is coming too close to another object. Some have Level 2 automation (multiple automated systems), and a few have Level 3 (limited self-driving).
Nissan’s all-electric 2018 Leaf includes two Level 2 systems. ProPilot Assist is an adaptive cruise control that can maintain a set distance behind another vehicle, a centered position in the lane and will br ake
The key argument underpinning the development of self-driving cars is their potential to reduce the number of auto-related fatalities.
to a temporary stop in traffic and resume driving as traffic moves. ProPilot Park does what its name implies—it parks the car for you (that’s for me!).
BMW, Infiniti, Mercedes-Benz, Ford and Tesla are some of the other c ar companies promoting their progress in autonomous vehicles. Some of their vehicles already have Level 3 automation systems.
The huge scale of the effort required for one company to build self-driving cars has prompted BMW to team up with Fiat Chrysler, chipmaker Intel and camera and software manufacturer Mobileye to build a platform for autonomous car technology by 2021. Other major chipmakers are investing billions of dollars to participate in what promises to be an enormous market.
SELF-DRIVING CARS NEED A LEGAL FRAMEWORK
Since computers don’t get distracted by cellphones or impaired by drugs and alcohol, self-driving cars promise to reduce the incidence of auto accidents and fatalities. But accidents will happen and will be widely publicized.
In the absence of a national framework establishing rules for driverless cars, the legal framework for autonomous vehicles varies by state. At least 41 states and Washington, D.C., have considered such legislation, and a database has collected this legislation for every state.
Florida is a very promising market for driverless cars. It is one of many states working actively to develop an appropriate framework by the time fully autonomous vehicles are ready for market.
SOUTHWEST FLORIDA IS AN ATTRACTIVE MARKET
Southwest Florida’s attractiveness as a retirement and winter season destination means that older people make up a large proportion of our population. Medical advances help people to live longer, but they often lose the mobility they previously enjoyed. Many seniors would like to stay in their homes, but find they have to move once they are forced to give up driving. Self-driving cars promise to be a great solution for independent living.
The advent of autonomous vehicles has benefits for everyone, not just people who buy them. The increased safety of autonomous cars
will reduce motor vehicle accidents, the greatest cause of non-disease-related deaths. Decreased road congestion from automated cars would benefit all who live in our area as the volume of seasonal residents and tourists increases.
The Florida Automated Vehicles Summit is an annual conference designed to explore “what Florida is and should be doing to create a favorable climate for implementing and deploying autonomous and connected vehicle technologies.” The summit’s organizers are the Center for Urban Transportation Research at the University of South Florida, the Florida Department of Transportation, and the Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority.
At the summit in November in Tampa, we heard from subject matter experts from government, industry and academia. It also included university students working on these technologies who will inherit the future we are exploring.
Florida is one of the leaders in driverless cars. Expect to see one in your future! Sandy Teger lives on Sanibel and is a part-time technology consultant at System Dynamics Inc. She’s also a grandmother of four, organizes the annual Sanibel Captiva Heart Walk and is a garden and wine enthusiast.
An extensive mapping program aids Tesla's automated technologies.