2020 Issue

50 Innovations in Transportation: Changing Everything About How We Move B laine Leonard started his presentation about autono- mous cars with the title and subtitle from an editorial that appeared in The Washington Times on Tuesday, May 7, 2019: “Here come the driverless cars. The big ques- tion is whether humans are ready to hand over the keys.” The issues, according to the editorial, involve safety and employment. Autonomous cars promise to bring a massive improvement in transportation safety as traffic accidents are reduced, but what will happen to work for people such as truckers and taxi drivers? And will the promised increase in safety be as good as its advocates promise? The U.S. Congress has been slow to act, but states have been working actively to bring smart navigation systems to their streets and highways. Blaine sees several trends that are transforming transportation: • The first is a shift in demographics. The population in the U.S. is aging, and millennial attitudes toward driving are often indifferent, with many young people postponing getting a driver’s license until they are sometimes much older than 16. • Big data, and the analytics that make sense of them, are having an impact. Data generally comes from two sources, either from the agency that generated it or as aggregated data from outside sources. • Mobility as a service is becoming increasingly common throughout the U.S. in the form of ride-sharing, on-de- mand vehicle rental, and new services such as bicycle or scooter rentals and trip bundling. • Vehicle propulsion is also changing. The most common is a shift from gas-powered vehicles to electrification and wireless charging, but researchers are also working on alternatives such as hydrogen-powered cars. • Several forms of connection have become increasingly important. It is now possible for cars to talk vehicle to vehicle (V2V), vehicle to infrastructure (V2I), or vehicle to some other entity (V2X). The other entity could be a bicyclist or a pedestrian. • Manufacturers are continuing to move incrementally toward driverless cars. Driver assistance (ADAS) is now standard; partial automation and full automation are also becoming more common, either in testing situa- tions or in actual real-world applications. • Urban air mobility involves the use of flying taxis and autonomous passenger drones. Automated vehicles use sensor technologies to sense their surroundings and take some (or all) driving functions from the human driver by applying technologies that allow a vehicle to use sensors to gather and analyze data. That is, autonomous cars can “see” thanks to the following: • GPS • Radar sensors • LiDAR • Digital imagery (cameras) All these technologies help drivers avoid hazards and drive more efficiently because of what their vehicle has been able to learn about the surrounding environment. As noted above, the promise of automated driving is fewer crashes, but it also promises increased access to transportation and more efficient freight movement. That is why 80 companies are testing automated driving sys- tems in 36 states. Improved safety is especially important. Between 2000 and 2018, there have been a total of 37,000 roadway deaths. In 2018, there were 264 deaths. From 2000 to 2012, the number of deaths seemed to be decreasing fairly steadily, but then the trend reversed itself — probably because of an increase in distracted driving. Susan Morgan — The newsLINK Group, LLC