The Driverless Car Progression

I’ve been thinking more about the progression, or steps, necessary to see full autonomous vehicle deployment in our society. I believe the private sector, including automakers, Google, and now maybe Apple (?) have the motivation and competition necessary to move this along quickly – whether or not the government gets involved, but what are the steps?

Our current society includes an introduction to automation in our vehicles. Many vehicles have cruise control, automatic parking, collision alerts, etc.   Over the coming years, I would expect that trend towards automation to continue. I think the following represents a few of the scenarios that could occur over the next couple of decades:

  • Fully autonomous vehicle testing on highways only (see blog post titled “A Big Step in Driverless Cars Testing/Integration”)
  • Fully autonomous vehicle testing in closed (pre-tested) roads and cordoned areas (test sites) (see Contra Costa’s testing facility website or the UK testing)
  • Fully autonomous vehicles available for use anywhere; however, many drivers will still have manual cars. Maybe autonomous vehicles are limited to people with certain licenses? Just government employees? Just car service providers like Uber and Lyft? Or, god forbid, only people who can afford them?
  • Fully autonomous vehicles are the only vehicles used by drivers (!!)

I purposely didn’t number this list because I have no idea if the first few steps will happen chronologically…or in tandem in different places around the world…or not at all! What are other scenarios that I’m missing?

About Lauren Isaac

I am the Manager of Transportation Sustainability at Parsons Brinckerhoff. Recently, I won the William Barclay Parsons fellowship for my research proposal to study how the United States government should respond to driverless cars. As I'm working on my research, I thought this blog would help to disseminate my findings and provide a forum for feedback.
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