The sudden appearance of driverless cars, not long ago the stuff of science fiction, has some Puget Sound transportation managers a little spooked.
“We do not want the technology to decide what kind of city we will have,” says Benjamin de la Peña, deputy director for policy, planning, mobility and right of way at Seattle’s Department of Transportation, pointing to the way planners in the early 1900s reshaped cities to accommodate automobiles. “We need to decide what kind of city we want and have the technology adapt to that kind of city.”
The recent death of an Arizona woman who was struck by a self-driving Uber car raised an alarm that perhaps these vehicles aren’t ready for prime time. But experts continue to believe that the autonomous vehicle, or AV, will see a significant increase in usage during the coming decade. How cities prepare for its arrival will determine whether it exacerbates urban problems or provides a solution to increasingly congested highways.
“The technology is already here. You can summon a driverless vehicle through Lyft in Nevada and Phoenix, in Boston and Atlanta,” says Avery Ash, head of AV development at Inrix, the Kirkland-based transportation analytics and connected-car services company. As AV numbers grow, Ash says, “It’s going to be up to the public sector to make sure we are addressing the negative externalities as they come to light.”
There may not be much time to prepare. Tom Alberg, a cofounder of Seattle’s Madrona Venture Group and a strong supporter of AV technology, thinks the number of AVs in use will increase more rapidly than most people anticipate. “My guess would be that by 2022, we are going to have a lot of vehicles with strong autonomous capabilities on the roads,” Alberg says. He expects that in 12 years, autonomous cars will account for more than 50 percent of new-car sales. “I think AVs are going to be very helpful for low-income communities, people with disabilities and seniors — people who can’t drive,” Alberg adds.
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When we envision our self-driving future, cars with built-in entertainment systems buzz us to and from work, while flying Ubers drop off passengers nearby. But the reality of the first commercial autonomous vehicles to arrive on our streets will probably be less sci-fi, more practical.
Researchers at INRIX set out to discover which routes are most practical for commercial AVs — specifically freight trucks — in a new study released Monday. They analyzed trip data from the Kirkland, Wash. company’s traffic database between June to August of 2018. They wanted to find out which freight routes in the U.S. could see the biggest safety improvements from AVs and which would be the most commercially viable to the companies operating them.
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Just this month, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, a driverless van began shuttling students and staff the 1-mile round trip between a research complex and a distant parking lot and bus stop.
In Las Vegas, an autonomous van launched last year, taking curious passengers on a three-block loop between a downtown retail park and Las Vegas Boulevard.
In San Ramon, California, two driverless shuttles began circulating in March through a nearly 600-acre cluster of office parks.
Autonomous shuttle pilot projects are sprouting in myriad locations across the country, gauging people’s reactions and trying to increase their comfort with driverless transit.
Bellevue wants in, too. Go to Story (offsite) ›
Artificial intelligence will enable vehicles to manage, make sense of, and respond quickly to real-world data inputs from hundreds of different sensors, but it’s going to take some time. Go to Story (offsite) ›
Kim Malcolm talks with Steve Marshall about Bellevue's plan to implement electric, self-driving van pools and shuttles. Marshall is transportation technology partnership manager for the city of Bellevue.
He says self-driving vehicles could be cruising Bellevue's roads later this year. Go to Story (offsite) ›
The city of Bellevue is in discussions to test self-driving van pools to bring commuters into the city and self-driving shuttles to ferry them around downtown.
They've brought in transportation guru Steve Marshall to investigate the possibilities, lead those discussions, and if it makes sense, create partnerships to make it happen. Go to Story (offsite) ›
The future of transportation will be in Seattle.
That’s a proclamation Washington Gov. Jay Inslee made at an event Wednesday evening celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Alliance of Angels investment group.
Speaking to leaders from the technology, political, business, and other industries, Inslee predicted that Seattle will be home to the first electric ferries in America and a hub for autonomous vehicle development.
“We are going to be the future of the electrification of the transportation system and the autonomous vehicle center of the U.S.,” Inslee said.
The state, which has the country’s largest ferry system, set aside $600,000 in its 2018 state transportation budget that will go toward researching how to convert ferries from diesel to hybrid electric propulsion, KUOW reported this week. Go to Story (offsite) ›