Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Time for Driverless Cars in Ohio?

Google the phrase "driverless car Ohio" and the results put my blog high on the list. 

There's a method to my madness.  Now, I'm no expert on autonomous vehicles.  I am pretty good, though, at pulling coalitions and networks together to get moving on something.  And it's time for Ohio to step things up.

I truly hope the result of my stirring up this issue is less about ranking on Google and more about Ohio moving forward on the driverless car.

I'm finding myself talking about this topic even off-blog (as in real life).  That generates questions.

Here's how I have answered questions I've been asked about driverless cars:

Q: Why Ohio?
A:  Ohio has a great convergence of industry and research capabilities that position it, already, to be a leader in the autonomous vehicle industry.  That's my story and I'm sticking to it.  We do have a little catch-up to play, though.

Q: Won't it put truck drivers and others who drive for a living out of work?
A: I've done ancestry research, and it shows I had a lot of relatives who made a living making harnesses and equipment for buggies. Four generations after the automobile, my family is still finding work, though not in that field for sure.

Besides, my grandma never learned to drive in her lifetime.  I think she would have liked the driverless car.

Q: Where will people prefer to live?
A:  Where one lives will depend less on where the government chose to put a train station or a highway and more about people choosing where they live of their own accord.  There's a lot of reason to be hopeful for the future if you live in a suburb or exurb and the driverless car becomes commonplace in our lifetimes. 

Cities shouldn't fear the future though either.  It will be just as easy to live in the core of a metro area and commute out to work in the suburbs.  It will be more about personal choice of where to live rather than one influenced by policymakers and fights over subsidies.

Q: What about poor people who still depend on mass transit?
A: For one, cars could become more affordable as they can be smaller and remain safe.  The less chance for crashes means they can be made to be lighter and more fuel efficient too.  It's hard to imagine mass transit going away altogether either.

Q: So when does this happen?
A: My quicker answer: In my lifetime. Which if's life expectancy chart is to be believed, would mean before 2046.

"Who knows?" is the honest answer.  However, few people are aware that Google has a driverless car that it claims has driven over 300,000 miles in California.  California and Nevada have laws permitting researchers' use of such vehicles on the roadways.  Michigan is working on a law too. 

Ohio State has had research on this for thirty years.  They have a video showing three autonomous cars navigating the OSU campus.  Ohio could be a leader.

Note, though, that other countries are, potentially, ahead of the U.S. in adapting policy to match the emerging research too.  This is going to happen regardless of the U.S. moving on it or not.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Rick - I don't live in Ohio, but I have spent most of the last two years finding out about this technology and I can help you a bit with your last Q. "So when does this happen?"
    If you listen to the automakers, e.g. GM, Volvo, Nissan, BMW/Continental, Mercedes then semi-autonomous will happen later this year with the Mercedes s-Class, Cadillac and next year Volvo.
    Their estimates on full autonomy are sometime between 2020 and 2025. However, Google have said that they will try and have their technology in public hands within 5 years, as they first said this in Sept 2012 then maybe 2017-2018. Well within your life expectancy, much sooner than people think and therefore more disruptive than if it all happened slowly and incrementally as the automakers would like it to happen.
    Once these vehicles are certified safe to drive unmanned then society transforms - if you think this is all about road safety, then think again.
    If you want to find out more then you might find my blog of interest: