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Are Autonomous Vehicles the Answer to Road Safety?

COVID-19 has highlighted the need for solutions that ensure our world is a lot safer for everyone, and technological innovations have been essential to making this goal a reality. Our previous overview on Industry 5.0 emphasizes that today’s disruptions are all about providing personalized care and creating an integrated system across multiple different tech solutions.

Autonomous vehicles are part and parcel of Industry 5.0. Such technology is touted as the answer to road safety problems, suggesting that the latest tech innovations can make us safer long after the pandemic is over.

How Autonomous Vehicles Work

Of course, it all starts with understanding how autonomous vehicles work. The industry itself is extremely fast-paced, developing all the time on a number of different fronts. According to a report on connected vehicles by Verizon Connect, the technology has three distinct forms: V2V, V2I, and V2X. The differences between these types are as follows:

  • V2V stands for vehicle-to-vehicle, and refers to short-range communication technology that will allow cars to communicate with one another. This tech is designed to reduce road incidents by sharing information such as the speed of the surrounding vehicles.
  • V2I stands for vehicle-to-infrastructure, where the infrastructure in question refers to overhead RFID readers, streetlights, traffic lights, and signage. These data collection points will gather detail on traffic conditions, weather, and potential roadblocks in order to transmit these to vehicles on the road.
  • V2X stands for vehicle-to-everything, and essentially encompasses V2V and V2I systems. According to the Verizon report, creating V2X systems can also help facilitate toll payments.

With autonomous vehicle technology paving the way in the automotive industry, it may only be a matter of time before this tech is branching into motorcycles and bikes.

The Public Safety Benefits of Autonomous Vehicles

One day, autonomous vehicles may decrease instances of human error on the road, which still accounts for the majority of car accidents. While autonomous vehicles still don’t excuse reckless driving behaviors such as driving while intoxicated or speeding, they can help the everyday driver make smarter decisions when on the road.

By relying on V2I-connected infrastructure to monitor traffic conditions, local government agencies can also learn whether existing traffic procedures are working. Autonomous vehicles will likely play an important role in the smart city phenomenon. Indeed, there’s a huge ripple effect that autonomous vehicles can have on our cities. Understanding traffic congestion through smart technology can inform decisions like how bus routes are formed and where pedestrian lanes are put. 

Autonomous vehicles may also have a big impact on sustainability efforts in the future. Manufacturers like Ford and Volkswagen are racing to get more electric cars with self-driving features on the road. A recent study in Nature Energy investigated the trade-offs in weight, computing load, and sensor load between autonomous vehicle functionality and electrification.

“We’re getting to a point where we won’t need to choose between autonomous driving and electric cars,” Venkat Viswanathan, an author of the study, told Bloomberg.

The same study also found that autonomous vehicles can see an energy savings of up to 10%. By driving smarter and reducing traffic congestion, autonomous vehicles can end up reducing a car’s power usage as well as its overall fuel consumption.

Autonomous Vehicles as Part of a System-Wide Solution

Innovations in autonomous vehicles aren’t just a concern for private companies. Researchers from the University of Texas at Austin are working with their city government to see how smart technology can be implemented in and around Austin. Furthermore, Vox’s article on the future of self-driving cars makes the argument that regulations and standards will have to be set to ensure that autonomous cars are safe enough for the road.

With these coming safety regulations in mind, the design and manufacture of autonomous vehicles must take into account the diverse environments in which they’ll operate. They must be safe in all conditions.

In all honesty, we’re likely years away from autonomous vehicle technology becoming commonplace and being fully incorporated into smart cities. It will be even longer before fully autonomous, completely driverless vehicles take over the roads. That said, the groundwork that’s already being done promises great advancements for road safety and overall smarter driving.


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About the Author

Jessica Garraway is a blogger who writes about technical subjects.


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