Friday, May 31, 2013

Coming disruptive technology: autonomous and near-autonomous vehicles

The McKinsey Global Institute is out with a new report (available here) on “Disruptive technologies: Advances that will transform life, business, and the global economy.”  The only disruptive technology cited by the authors that directly affects the transportation sector is “autonomous and near-autonomous vehicles.”
The authors conclude that “after 20 years of work on advanced machine vision systems, artificial intelligence, and sensors, the technology to build autonomous vehicles is within reach.”  The holdup to widespread deployment won’t be the technology, it will be the need for new regulatory frameworks and public support.  And, oh yes, there will be new infrastructure required if we are to have fully automated roadways.  The benefits of automated roadways?  Reduced pollution, reduced congestion, reduced stress and driving time, and greater safety among others.
Getting through the regulatory, policy, and infrastructure issues for a major technological advance will no doubt be a heavy lift, especially considering that in most places today we can’t even seem to get the traffic signals retimed.  Meanwhile, NHTSA has just taken a tentative first step (story here) to recommend a regulatory framework.

And why don’t we have other 21st technologies under development in the transportation sector?

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