Driverless Cars and the Weather

I’m very curious to see how weather plays a role in how soon driverless cars will become publicly available. As we all know, driving a car on a beautiful sunny day is very different than driving through fog or on icy roads. The decisions humans have to make in bad weather include “is it safe enough outside to drive?” and “should I pull over because visibility or traction has gotten so bad?” Humans probably do make pretty good decisions because they know they are liable and, frankly, they are putting their own lives in their hands.

How will this decision-making change with driverless cars? First of all, it will be interesting to see how the technology developers design the vehicles to address inclement weather.  This article describes how Ford is testing its driverless cars in snow and this article describes how Google is using different technologies to better understand the weather and how the car should be responding.

Second of all, it will also be interesting to see if and how the government gets involved in regulating if and where driverless cars can travel in inclement weather. Should the government declare roadways unfit for driving? They don’t now, so is there any reason to change that?  Would people make poor decisions and take greater risks to use their driverless car in bad weather if, for example, the liability didn’t fall on them? Or if they could send out their car and not be inside it?  This will be an important issue for both the government and the insurance industry to grapple with.

Please check out my company’s article on my Driving Towards Driverless Guide and my Ted Talk (which won’t be available for another month or so).

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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