This TRB session (511) was by far the most thought provoking that I have attended in quite awhile. It was standing room only for Bryant Walker Smith, a lawyer from Stanford and Thomas Bamonte, CFO from the Northern Texas Tollway Authority.
First, on the legal side, although Google made big news when Nevada granted them a license to operate their autonomous vehicle, it turns out that in most states it is probably not illegal to operate one of these vehicles today – amazing.
But it was the insights from Thomas that really got my attention. He pointed out that auto is already in automobile and that the car was the Internet for those of us over 40. He says it is all about connectivity. The car allowed us older gens to connect with our friends – the Internet does that for the younger gens today, but when they get into their car they tend to lose connectivity because they have to deal with driving. BTW, most of the younger gens have no interest in cars – there is no love affair with the auto anymore.
Thomas see great opportunity coming from increasing the capacity of existing highways by 2 to 4 times using connected and driverless vehicles. Of course LiDAR is a critical enabling technology in all of this, but it was hardly mentioned. It’s assumed that is going to work.
Have no doubts, in 10 years this will be a major reality.