Contemporary transportation methods are obsolete. Last century’s inefficient, polluting technologies have no place in the world of artificial intelligence and machine learning. From the 800 km/h Hyperloop to completely self-driving vehicles, innovative transportation technology is a race to the future. In the 2017 National Governors Association Summer Meeting, Elon Musk said that driving a non-autonomous vehicle by 2037 would be like riding a horse today.
“It will be like having a horse. People have horses, which is cool. There will be people who have non-autonomous cars, like people have horses,” he explained. “It would just be unusual to use that as a mode of transport.”
An Autonomous Transportation Future
When put into perspective, Musk’s words are not that far-fetched. Dubai, which has already committed itself to having a 25% autonomous transportation network by 2030, has already begun testing infrastructure that support this network.
In what is considered a big step toward achieving its autonomous transportation goals, Dubai is testing a new traffic signal system that allows self-driving vehicles and traffic lights to communicate with each other for better and safer transportation.
“Connected infrastructure is one of the things that we are interested in [testing] as part of the trials we will do for autonomous cars,” Ahmed Bahrozyan, chief executive officer of the RTA Licensing Agency and chairman of the smart vehicles committee, told Arabian Business in an interview.
“We may look at a route that will allow us to test autonomous vehicles and it will cross traffic though it may still be on the pavement. We will have a traffic signal at the junction to test how the shuttle bus can talk to the [traffic] signal so when the shuttle bus is approaching the signal will turn red for the incoming traffic and allow the shuttle bus to cross. It will then turn green again.”
A Safer System
In addition to improving traffic flow, safety is a big advantage for autonomous systems. According to a WHO study, 1.25 million people die in traffic-related accidents each year, making it the main cause of death for people aged between 15-29 years.
Unsurprisingly, the majority of traffic accidents are caused by the system’s biggest flaw: human error. Those errors could be anything from speeding to driving under the influence. Unless the human factor is reduced to a minimum, traffics accidents will continue to claim many lives.
An autonomous transportation system has a minimum chance for human errors, and it is believed that having a machine behind the wheel will soon be the safest method for getting a person safely from point A to point B, which is why many institutions and cities like Dubai are investing in these new forms of technology.
According to the American Society of Automotive Engineers, self-driving vehicles are categorized by levels ranging from 1 to 5. The current “self-driving” vehicles available commercially are in the level 3 category. Level 3 vehicles require human monitoring and intervention in some situations. Recently, a Tesla Model S with level 3 self-driving capabilities crashed due to a failure in human intervention, resulting in the passenger’s tragic death.
Level 4 and 5 vehicles, however, require no human intervention or monitoring. Being completely autonomous, the safety factor is much higher due to the absence of the human factor. In order for a similar system to work to its fullest potential, updates to existing infrastructure are essential. With Dubai now testing their infrastructure updates, they are one step closer to achieving their goal. Perhaps they can lead the way for setting safer and more transportation standards for a traffic-notorious region.