Connected and Automated Vehicles, or C/AV, indicates two distinct technologies that are developing along parallel tracks. That is, they’re both headed in the same direction: self-driving cars able to communicate with each other and their environment.
Communicating with each other refers to technology that signals intent, direction, speed, and other navigational data to surrounding vehicles; communicating with their environment refers to technology that allows vehicles to communicate with “smart” infrastructure and allows them to connect with cloud and edge computing architectures.
A variety of forces are driving the development of connected and automated vehicle technology—three leading factors are (1) safety, (2) more efficient roadway operations, and (3) growing demand for more mobility options.
Tens of thousands of people die on US roadways each year, most of those incidents are caused by human error--those working on self-driving technologies are often motivated by a desire to reduce the risks of driving. We’re running out of right-of-way, or so it seems to most of us. Roadway authorities are feeling the pressure of fighting congestion without recourse to more lane expansions—meaning, they need to find ways to do more with what the roads that they already have. This is another big opportunity that CAV developers are trying to address: How to make our existing roadways more efficient and, thus, reduce our need to build more lanes.
Data from the National Household Traffic Survey shows that the bulk of all trips are five miles or less. Looking at transportation spending you wouldn’t think that’s the case—we spend most of our money on the long commute, not the short trip. Micro-mobility (bikes, scooters) are showing that everyday people are feeling that shortfall and responding by jumping on scooters.
The estimated timeline for vary but one thing should be mentioned first: They’re on roads now. There are active deployments across the country, across Texas, and within our region. While we may not see them replacing today’s vehicles in great numbers for at least another decade, you will likely begin seeing them on campuses, or along particular corridors, or connecting communities to transit hubs. It’s going to be a long and bumpy road before we see them everywhere, but tomorrow will be here fast—we need to be preparing now.