Will we see autonomous vehicles in Boston soon—or way off in the future?
Gary Jaffarian reviews what initiatives are planned for Boston to test these vehicles and how Beacon Hill is gearing up for new legislation to support driverless vehicles.
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh announced the city plans to team up with researchers at the World Economic Forum who chose Boston to explore the best way to make the emerging technology of autonomous—or driverless vehicles– work in the city, according to Metro, a Boston area travel newspaper.
As part of a one-year pilot program, this collaboration will draft policy recommendations and determine the safest way to conduct on-the-road testing of self-driving vehicles. Mayor Walsh said that he views this project as an important part of his administration’s Go Boston 2030 project, a master plan for the city’s transportation future that aims to improve access to and the safety of the city’s transit system.
The project’s monumental goal is to eliminate all fatal and serious car crashes in the city by 2030. An average of two pedestrians are hit by a motorist in Boston every day, per city statistics. While some of us are apprehensive at the thought of driverless vehicles, many reports indicate they would help making driving safer by using computerized “brains” and robotics to make decisions, instead of human brains—which may be affected by distractions, alcohol, prescription or other drugs, etc.
“Boston’s collaboration with the World Economic Forum represents our commitment to creating a safe, reliable and equitable mobility plan for Boston’s residents,” Walsh said in a statement. “We are focused on the future of our city and how we safely move people around while providing them with reliable mobility choices.”
The thrust of the partnership is to brainstorm how the technology of driverless cars might be introduced to Boston, but there’s no timetable for when such vehicles would be tested on city streets.
About 37,000 people die from collisions each year in the U.S., with about 94% of all accidents, fatal or not, attributed to driver error, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. With this technology, experts who have been studying these driverless vehicles believe they have the potential to save tens of thousands of lives each year. Experts in the industry liken this to when we first heard about the Internet, no one could believe—or even imagine— its potential. There is a mining company in Australia, Rio Tinto, that already employs 45 240-ton driverless trucks to move iron ore in two of its mines, saying it is cheaper and safer than using human drivers.
The last piece of the study is to look at shared services, similar to Uber, whereby we can reduce the carbon footprint with reduced emissions by sharing more energy-efficient vehicles.
Beacon Hill Prepares for Driverless Vehicles
Governor Charlie Baker recently signed an executive order creating a task force on automated vehicles. The “AV Working Group” would encourage development of driverless vehicles in Massachusetts and work with companies to support this innovation. This task force would also begin proposing changes in state laws or regulations ensuring public safety. The Task Force will be made up of the Secretary of Transportation, Secretary of Public Safety, Secretary of Housing and Economic Development, the Registrar of DMV and other officials, in addition to four members appointed by the House and Senate leadership. Housing and Economic Development Secretary Jay Ash notes that these new vehicles will include robotics, advanced materials, internet-enabled sensors and artificial intelligence. There are plans for the Massachusetts study to begin in late 2016 or early 2017, according to The Boston Globe.
Volvo is making sure self-driving vehicles will fit seamlessly into people’s lives – and into society – with the Drive Me project, Volvo’s large-scale trial of the technology which will result in the IntelliSafe Autopilot technology. Carried out by real customers on real roads, it is likely to be the first of its kind in the world with testing already in progress in Europe.
Toyota is developing autonomous safety technologies to create a virtual “co-pilot” in vehicles that helps drivers avoid accidents rather than self-driving cars and trucks.
Jaffarian Volvo Toyota is proud to carry the two manufacturers’ vehicles that are ahead-of-its-time in both technology and safety. We will keep you posted on the Boston studies and the future of autonomous vehicles, especially those being piloted by Volvo.
My grandparents would be amazed at how advanced technology is affecting the automobile industry!