October 18, 2017
FSU study examines safety, effect of automated vehicles

Photo: Tesla Motors

This Tesla S model with autopilot feature is type of car that crashed, killing its driver in May.

FSU News Release

FSU study examines safety, effect of automated vehicles

In May, a Tesla Model S crashed while on "autopilot," killing the driver. This fatal collision has people questioning the safety of automated vehicle technology, but researchers at FSU have been looking at how safety and mobility could actually improve in an automated vehicle (AV) world.

Each year, graduate students in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning participate in a research project commissioned by a governmental or private planning organization in order to get real-world experience in the field. The study Envisioning Florida’s Future: Transportation and Land Use in an Automated Vehicle World was funded by the Florida Department of Transportation.

Senior planner for the Florida Planning and Development Lab, Jeremy Crute says, "This study tried to envision the future in an AV world in order to identify how our cities and the built environment would need to change to maximize the benefits AV technology could provide while minimizing the potential problems the technology may create."

At its current stage, self-driving features like Tesla's autopilot are, according to Tesla, meant to be an assist feature. In a statement issued by the car company following the car crash, the Tesla team says the Autopilot feature "reminds the driver to 'Always keep your hands on the wheel. Be prepared to take over at any time.'"

In the study's final report, the researchers outlined the potential benefits of an AV world, as well as the risks that the developing technology poses. While the study performed by DURP visualizes the impacts of a totally self-driving car, the current Tesla product is one that still requires the driver's constant attention and correction when necessary. Once the technology advances to a totally automated vehicle, the DURP researchers imagine a very different urban landscape.

Crute says, "90% of crashes are due to human error, and since computers never text while driving, never get sleepy, and never drive drunk, AVs are expected to drastically reduce the frequency and severity of traffic accidents."

According to the study's findings, automated vehicles would change city infrastructure, allowing reduction and narrowing of traffic lanes, creating convenient drop-off lanes close to destinations, decreasing need for parking lots, improving the lives and mobility of transportation disadvantaged populations such as aging and disabled adults, and improving the safety of pedestrians and cyclists.

The automated vehicle is still a work in progress, and not without its risks. In a world dominated by cars, it's difficult to imagine the possible transformations to the built environment that these cars could bring. But Crute says that, "Automated vehicle technology is a transformative technology that promises to drastically improve the safety and efficiency of transportation."

Plus, you could work or watch movies while you travel.

This story originally appeared at FSU News.

Tags: Transportation

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