It’s funny to think that driverless vehicles could be the magic answer to this global pandemic…even if they really aren’t – at least for passenger transport. While mass transit vehicles are seen as germ-carrying enclosures, driverless vehicles, in theory, will provide a mobility solution capable of moving a passenger – without a driver! Unfortunately, we are not there yet; the majority of these operations still have 1-2 security operators in a vehicle (carrying germs!). For this reason, nearly every driverless technology company has taken their vehicles off the road, whether for testing or real-world deployments (see link here).
Unfortunately, the safest way to avoid the coronavirus and get around today is in your private vehicle. This had the potential to lead to huge increases in single-occupant vehicle use, traffic congestion, and greenhouse gas emissions; however, there is nowhere to go! Since most places have “shelter-in-place” orders, people aren’t driving, which actually has surprisingly positive environmental benefits. As stated in This article, “the epidemic has, at least in part, contributed to a notable drop in pollution and greenhouse gas emissions”. We can’t attribute this to driverless vehicles, but it shows the benefits of reducing the movement of people (among other activities).
The opportunity offered by driverless vehicles today concerns the transport of goods. As usual, this aspect of driverless mobility is often overshadowed by the much sexier driverless passenger transport. Several driverless technology companies have helped Chinese communities – delivering everything from grocery delivery to medical supplies (see sample article here). On the contrary, the empty streets and the lack of manpower have accelerated the adoption and acceptance of this technology.
The technology still requires significant development, but it is good to know that the Coronavirus could have some advantages. Let’s not forget that driverless vehicles are not ready to solve all the problems in the world! Any ideas for other potential driverless applications today?
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