Automated vehicles are the future of American transportation and are expected to be completely driverless within the next 20 years, according to an architect and road planner.
Dale Dekker, founder and architect at design firm Dekker/Perich/Sabatini, and Nathan Masek, senior transportation planner with the Mid-Region Council of Governments, presented information about autonomous cars during this week’s NAIOP Rio Rancho Roundtable meeting at Presbyterian Rust Medical Center.
The two chatted up driverless cars and how they will change America’s future infrastructure.
Low-end, entry-level autonomous vehicles capable of sensing their environment without human input have been available since 2010, Dekker said. More advanced autonomous vehicles are expected to hit the consumer market in the next few years, with Ford projected to build an autonomous car without a steering wheel or pedals by 2021. Dekker said a future with fully automated driverless cars can be reached by 2030.
“It sounds like a long time from now but that’s 14 years, that’s not that far away,” Dekker said. “Look back in the rearview mirror towards 2003 and what was going on then.”
Shared automated vehicle projects, similar to Lyft and Uber, could increase urban space by 30 percent, Dekker said, and could open opportunities for future building developments to uncouple parking lots from buildings.
The U.S. Department of Transportation has already begun planning for driverless cars, Masek said. Infrastructure updates are being proposed by the USDOT, he said, that will help turn a city into a “smart city.” Smart cities would help automated vehicles communicate better with the city they’re driving in thanks to strategically placed free Wi-Fi access points, incident detection software and road infrastructure.
With the nation’s car accident rate projected to decrease by 90 percent due to automated vehicles, Dekker said driverless vehicles could drastically change a number of industries, including insurance businesses.
“This is where I think we have to really put on our thinking caps as to how this is going to impact society as we know it,” he said. “Fewer accidents, fewer claims – think about that. Think about the industries that are built on human error.”
Automated vehicles can be of benefit and detriment to America’s manufacturing industry; with 3.5 million truck drivers across the nation, automated vehicles pose a serious threat to millions of jobs, Dekker said.
“Truckers are the largest single employer in the United States,” he said. “What do 3.5 million truckers do for a living? These are big issues that are going to impact the way we live and the way we do things.”