Marking roads to make them safer for self-driving cars
With a wealth of fascinating technologies being developed specifically for autonomous driving the possibilities are appearing endless, from neural networks to advanced sensors. However, there is a less glamorous technology, which may hold just as much importance, but will not get all the glory- the roads. However, there is a less glamorous technology, which may hold just as much importance, but will not get all the glory- the roads. Around the world, researchers have been asking the question: how can we make roads safer and easier to use for autonomous vehicles? (And drivers could be forgiven for asking: why the earth should we?)
The US Department of Transportation's recent policy guidance for self-driving cars was interesting for what it did not contain. While the government told car manufacturers what they need to do to make their vehicles safe, it kept a narrow focus. There were no guidelines for drivers or road-builders.
That's not unreasonable, considering that the most advanced semi-autonomous cars are still a miniscule minority of vehicles on the roads – and even the most optimistic projections see them remaining a minority for many years to come. Should money be spent altering roads just to suit a small minority? What if those changes actually made roads less safe for human road users?
Autonomous vehicle makers, however, are already pressing for road improvements, and some governments are beginning to respond. Car makers say that one of the simplest things that US authorities could do is to follow their own standards and mark roads properly.
Better lane markings
Last year, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced bold plans to capitalise on the autonomous vehicle market by ensuring the city’s roads are ready for it. “We will ensure that the demands and challenges of this new technology are fully considered as we invest in our infrastructure and plan for L.A.’s transportation future,” he said.