Gridlock Guy: Self-driving cars now reality, not sci-fi – Atlanta Journal Constitution
For years, both in this column and on the radio, I have been touting the the future of self-driving cars and how they will eventually be the one thing that can eliminate traffic here in Atlanta and around the world. Cars that can talk to each other, cars that figure out how to get to you from Point A to Point B without causing delays are the ultimate game changer when it comes to traffic. Simply put, self-driving cars are the key to a traffic-free world.
Many scoffed at my prediction. I received emails, tweets and Facebook messages calling me an idiot. People will never give up driving they wrote. The technology will never work they stated. Mass transit is the only way to get rid of traffic they implored.
Well, my vision of a traffic free future took a huge leap forward last week when Uber launched a test fleet of self-driving Ford Fusions in Pittsburgh.
The cars, equipped with a back-up driver and an engineer started transporting customers around the city, notorious for rough roads, as a test for a future nationwide launch.
Yes, there were some minor issues, as might be expected with any new technology, but for the most part, the self-driving cars got rave reviews from passengers and city officials.
“The censors on these automated vehicles have the same challenges that our senses do when we’re operating cars,” Stan Caldwell, executive director of Carnegie Mellon’s Traffic 21 Institute, told our sister station KDKA in Pittsburgh.
These test runs and further technological advancements will help push the self-driving car movement forward.
“Computers do repetitive tasks very well … but where people are still much more superior to computers is being able to handle complex situations quickly,” Caldwell said.
That is why Uber is employing a “back-up” driver in the vehicles.
“Right now, the vehicles can actually avoid a lot of accidents,” Caldwell said. “But for the time being, we need to have a person in the vehicle that is able to take over in those complex situations where the computer is not able to process that information.”
The more miles these self-driving cars can log, the more kinks that can get ironed out and the more people that give self-driving cars a chance, the closer we will be to a traffic-free world. Yes, a world free from bumper-to-bumper delays. A world free from hour-long commutes. A world free from road rage and traffic angst. That world is closer than you might think.
While you might be hesitant to ride in a self-driving cars, a majority of Americans are on board. According to a recently released study by the University of Michigan, only 23 percent of Americans wouldn’t ride in a self-driving car.
The benefits of taking humans out of driving are enormous. Computers won’t drive drunk. Computers won’t drive drowsy. Computers won’t text and drive. Computers won’t get lost. Computers will talk to each other to make traffic backups non-existent. Computers will drop you off at your office door and find a parking spot on it’s own. Computers will know multiple alternate routes.
Computers will make my job obsolete. I can’t wait.