Remember the vintage television show Knight Rider, whose car drove the driver? Well, the past is new again—and for everybody—in Virginia, whose roads saw the introduction of automated cars on a test basis recently. Theoretically, you will be able to drive while you flip through a magazine, as the car pilots your car, responds to road conditions, and ensures that your driving is safe. Automated cars will, for example, be able to respond to a sudden stop ahead of you by coming to a halt, all without driver involvement.
During the summer, Virginia’s governor announced a partnership between the state, Virginia Tech University, Transurban and a division of Nokia called HERE. The partnership will be testing automated vehicles in northern Virginia, on parts of I-95, I-495 and I-66, U.S. Highway 29 and U.S. Highway 50. U.S. Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) and a group of national and regional transportation directors witnessed testing of a several “hands-off” test cars carrying the most up-to-date cameras, screens and sensors along a 10-mile section of I-95 in late October. “The growing use of automated and connected technologies is no longer a matter of if, but when,” Senator Warner said.
Some noted that the effect of automated cars on traffic safety is not known—and neither is the possibility and extent of adoption by drivers. Virginia Tech’s Tom Dingus noted that some believe that automated cars will cut accidents to zero, but that neither the effect on accidents or the popularity of the cars among drivers. He indicated that the popularity of manual transmissions was at a high.
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