LOS ANGELES – As automated cars continue to improve and expand onto public roads, safety concerns linger among unsure motorists. Still, some believe infrastructure enhancements could improve safety and spur usage. What if roadways included lanes designated solely for autonomous vehicles? One new study shows that nearly three in four (73%) Californians would support a highway lane intended for exclusive access by self-driving cars.
The survey, conducted by Autonomous Vehicles California, a public advocacy organization for use of autonomous vehicles in California, included 313 adult respondents.
Self-driving car lanes have been proposed previously in California as well as other high traffic states such as New York by engineering students, firms, or advocacy groups. Previous proposals have focused on the low potential cost as compared to a rail project with estimates as low as $12M per mile, versus $139M per mile, respectively.
Additional potential benefits include higher speed limits up to 120 miles per hour, more convenient travel for passengers, and quicker connections between high traffic destinations such as Berkeley to Palo Alto, Los Angeles to San Francisco, or Los Angeles to Las Vegas. Unfortunately for original proponents, over two years later dedicated lanes for self-driving cars have yet to find a political champion or funding source.
Large technology companies such as Uber, Lyft, and Waymo have started testing self-driving cars on public roads in places like Tempe, Arizona and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Tesla already markets autopilot features with full self-driving capabilities expected in the near future. In 2018, public sentiment about self-driving vehicles was described as “more worried than enthusiastic,” even before a fatal accident in Arizona.
However, the AutonomousCA.org study found that only 18% of Californians were opposed to having self-driving cars on the roads. Moreover, the study also found that a dedicated lane for self-driving cars might expedite the public’s access and willingness to ride in a self-driving car.
In fact, 60% of respondents indicated that they would consider hailing a self-driving car for a long-distance trip to specific destinations.
Similarly, nearly 60% of respondents would feel more comfortable sharing the road with self-driving cars if they had a designated lane.
Across the board, younger respondents were more in support of self-driving cars taking to the roads in a dedicated lane. More than two thirds were ready to use self-driving cars as a primary mode of transportation and over 80% were in favor of dedicated lanes.
What do you think? Should your state designate a lane for self-driving cars? Or do you prefer to wait for fully autonomous cars that have proven ability to navigate public roads?