Despite the expected setbacks due to COVID-19’s incursion into the human experience, autonomous vehicles continue rolling toward what appears to be widespread deployment. The trusty steeds of tomorrow rely on sensors such as radar, lidar, GPS, sonar, inertial measurements, and odometry to perceive their surroundings.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, at least 29 states have enacted legislation related to autonomous vehicles. According a recent report by Verified Market Research, the global connected car market, valued at $72.68 billion in 2019, is predicted to be valued at $215.23 billion by 2027. That would involve a growth of 14.56% from 2020 to 2027.1
Some of the touted advantages of self-driving vehicles include reduced accidents, reduced traffic congestion, reduced CO2 emissions, increased lane capacity, lower fuel consumption, transportation accessibility, as well as reduced travel time and travel costs.
There could be other hidden silver linings associated with the use of self-driving vehicles. For some, vehicles might have increased longevity, when not subjected to the cruelties inflicted by manic driving habits: excessive acceleration, sudden braking, taking risks like passing due to emotional frustration, and more.
When I was at a Walmart grocery store recently, I was shopping almost by myself during a torrential rainstorm, when a driverless floor buffer hummed slowly toward me like a Zamboni, appropriately near the frozen foods section. Of course, curiosity got the better of me. When it came close by, I began edging my shopping cart slowly into its path. At first, it began edging away from me until my cart completely shut off its path. Then it stopped. It hurled no insults, made no obscene gestures, and waited for me to move out of the way. Maybe autonomous vehicles might become an antidote for road rage, making city driving more peaceful.
Here are a few news briefs relating to autonomous vehicles:
Automakers Chisel Away at Hands-Free Driving
Tesla is accelerating its intended rollout of 100 percent self-driving vehicles by the end of this year by augmenting the software to the Tesla Autopilot system. The system will enable vehicles to recognize speed signs and adjust speed accordingly. In another announcement, General Motors is planning to load its hands-free driving Super Cruise feature to 22 vehicles by 2023. Also, Mercedes Benz has announced that, pending government approval, it plans to include Level 3 autonomous level 3 driving technology in its new 2021 S class.2
Michigan Plans Highway for Self-Driving Cars
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced in August announced plans for a 40-mile Connected and Autonomous Vehicle Corridor between Detroit and Ann Arbor, created through a partnership between mobility company Cavnue as the Master Developer, and the Michigan Department of Transportation, the Michigan Office of Future Mobility and Electrification, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, and the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity. Phase 1, which will explore the project’s feasibility is expected to take place over the next two years. The corridor would connect a number of smaller towns as well as major drop off points between the two Southern Michigan cities.3
Study: Autonomous Vehicles Won’t Eliminate Accidents
According to auto safety experts, humans cause approximately 49% of vehicle crashes in the U.S. A new study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says that computer-controlled vehicles will be able to prevent only one-third of them. “We're still going to see some issues even if autonomous vehicles might react more quickly than humans do. They're not going to always be able to react instantaneously," said Jessica Cicchino, and institute vice president of research and co-author of the study. Some of the problematic situations cited by the study included judging how fast another vehicle is moving, road conditions, evasive maneuvers, and errors in vehicle control.4