Councilman Robert Weinroth On Transportation Summit


By: Councilman Robert Weinroth Special to the Boca Newspaper
Recently, Mayor Haynie and I attended the 2016 Florida Automated Vehicles Summit in Tampa and left the two-day meeting with a mixture of excitement and terror due to the implications of what had been discussed.
Also in attendance at the summit was Florida state Senator Jeff Brandes, a driving force (sorry, I couldn’t help myself) behind the state embracing the autonomous vehicle technology sooner rather than later.
In 2012, Google delivered two autonomous vehicles to Tallahassee at the invitation of Brandes to demonstrate the technology. Since then, Florida has become one of the most welcoming venues for autonomous vehicles.
During the last legislative session, HB 7027 won unanimous approval and in April was signed by Governor Scott making Florida the first state to allow self-driving vehicles on its roads.
Autonomous vehicles offer the promise of reduced traffic congestion and less land allocated for parking. But the true reason for embracing this new technology is the potential for a dramatic reduction in the carnage on our roads.
Distracted drivers, drivers under the influence and drivers with diminished driving skills would no longer be causing accidents on our roads. The independence we each cherish (symbolized by access to a private passenger vehicle) would be preserved for those of advanced years without imperiling those with whom they share the road.
But, and there always seems to be a “but,” the disruption in our transportation system caused by the introduction of fully autonomous vehicles (especially while sharing the road with human drivers) promises to create a problems  akin to what occurred with our transition to the horseless carriage at the beginning of the 20th century as cars and horses shared the road.
At the same time as we are moving toward the day when communication connections are created between the infrastructure (e.g., road markings, signs and signals) and vehicles; and between vehicles, the transition from internal combustion to electric engines will continue.
It is projected that by 2030 (less than 15 years from today) 20-30% of our vehicles will be powered by electricity. This will necessitate alternate funding mechanisms for the maintenance and upgrade of our highway system, now dependent on diminishing gas tax dollars
Uber, Lyft and other ridesharing services are but the precursor for the future when vehicle ownership will be replaced by vehicle subscriptions. Garaging will be unnecessary as multiple users take advantage of the time the vehicle would normally sit idle. Today, vehicles are parked over 90% of the time.
We have become numb to the carnage on our roadways. Notwithstanding the required period of transition, with over 90% of the over 38,000 deaths from motor vehicle accidents in the US last year attributed to human error (and an additional 4 million injuries), autonomous vehicles could potentially save the equivalent of a full 747 every week and eliminate the suffering of those injured.
HB 7027 allows anyone with a valid drivers license to operate an autonomous vehicle as long as the vehicle is capable of alerting the operator to a technology failure. If the operator can’t take control of the vehicle it must be capable of bringing itself to a complete stop.
It all sounds like something out of the Jetsons but it is going to be a reality before children in Kindergarten are ready to get behind the wheel.
Level 3-vehicle automation is due to be available in 2018 whereby the driving functions are sufficiently automated that the driver can engage in other activities.
Level 4-vehicle automation will follow soon thereafter allowing the vehicle to be driven without a human driver!
Many a parent will sleep more soundly knowing their children are not making life-changing mistakes behind the wheel, relying, instead on the autonomous technology to get them home safe.