Imagine a world without driver’s licenses, traffic lights, or road signs. Welcome to 2040.
According to a study by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), self-driving cars will account for up to 75 percent of cars on the road by 2040. The IEEE also predicts that by the middle of the century, this influx of self-driving cars will change the basic infrastructure, eliminating the need for traffic signals.
While this idea may seem far-fetched to today’s drivers, the IEEE has conducted real-world tests confirming the validity of self-driving cars. Dr. Alberto Broggi, a senior IEEE member, directed a 8,000 mile journey from Parma, Italy to Shanghai with two driverless cars. The cars used no help from infrastructure and instead relied on cameras and sensors to find their way safely to their destination. Google, a major leader in self-driving car technology, has also conducted over 300,000 miles of testing without a single error under computer control.
Drivers will be happy to know that they will have to take one trip fewer to the DMV by the time 2040 rolls around. According to the IEEE, driver’s licenses may not be necessary when self-driving cars start to dominate the roads.
“People do not need a license to sit on a train or a bus,” said Azim Eskandarian, director of the IEEE’s Center for Intelligent Systems Research, in a statement. “In a full-autonomy case in which no driver intervention will be allowed, the car will be operating.”
Traffic lights and driver’s licenses will likely be made unnecessary due to the growth of vehicle-to-vehicle communication. The U.S. Department of Transportation recently paired up with automakers to gain further knowledge about connected car safety systems. In these systems, cars are equipped with sensors allowing them to share situational data with each other. They can determine whether it is safe to enter an intersection and can detect if the car in front is making a sudden stop. Additionally, Volvo is coming out with breakthrough technology, allowing cars to form “road trains” so drivers in a long chain of cars can sit back and relax throughout the ride.
While this may be the future for 2040, self-driving cars will likely begin appearing much sooner than this. According to a CNN report, GM’s Cadillac division expects to be selling partially-autonomous cars by 2015. GM also has predicted that full-on self-driving cars will appear on U.S. roads by the end of this decade.
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