Do self-driving cars dream of electric signs?
According to spectrum.ieee.org (the website of IEEE, the world’s largest professional technology association) 2030 Forecast, self driving cars are on the way. Google’s fleet of driverless Prius has covered over 300,ooo miles, 50,ooo of them in one car with no human intervention at all.
So the next question is, surely cars that can make their own way in the world don’t need signage?
Decisions about route planning and directions, increasingly sent to satnavs or mobiles, are being planed into the programming of autonomous vehicles not least because of all the other variables involved in ‘protecting’ self drive cars form the vagaries of human behavour (or the ‘oops’ factor, as it charming coined by engineers).
In the US, State legislation for allowing autonomous vehicles on the Highways from 2015
The teams working on these programmes also expect – in less time – that what they describe as ‘infrastructure’ (what we’d call signs and traffic lights) will broadcast all kinds of information – communicating directly with smart cars.
The real driver for these smarter cars isn’t technology per-se, but the desire to reduce car carnage. With 90% of accidents (statistics from the National Highway Traffic Administration in the US, where these developments are moving forward most rapidly) down to driver error, making cars safer can only be taken so far with the driver still in control. So we move inexorably towards a situation where we can see a future where we begin to had over some of our autonomy behind the wheel to our cars’ brains.
Now, the predictions for 2030 aren’t that completely autonomous vehicles will be in place, but that we will spend less time ‘driving’, with our cars doing more of the work in getting us there.
So if we’re freer to enjoy the journey, enjoying specialised lanes or ‘close environments’, perhaps less and smarter signage can be deployed to tell us more about where we are – and less about where we’re going.