PA preparing for more self-driving cars

Local News

This week is the state’s first ever Automated Vehicle Summit which highlights the future of transportation–and that may be closer than we think.

Leslie Richards, Secretary of the PennDOT, said “The future is here and autonomous and connected vehicles are going to be a big part of transportation.”

Autonomous vehicles, better known as self driving cars, could be on the verge of becoming the norm.

“We don’t know what transportation is going to look like in 5, 10, 15 years from now but we know it’s going to look a lot different than it does today,” Richards said.

But PennDot wants to take the wheel and be ready for major changes.

Richards said the Automated Vehicle Summit is a place for lawmakers, researchers, and manufacturers to come together and hone in on all aspects of the technology.

Some of the main topics include rule making, liability, certification, and the local economy.

“How is it going to impact our workforce? The jobs that we need for this technology to emerge are different than the jobs that exist today,” Richards said.

Pennsylvania is ahead of the curve, with locations ranked for proving grounds to test autonomous vehicles.

One of the testing locations includes the Thomas Larson Pennsylvania Transportation Institute at Penn State.

Sean Brennan, Prof. of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering at PSU, said the Centre Region puts autonomous vehicles to the test with different climate and terrain.

“We want to know that the technology not only works during a blue sky day but also during inclimate weather, rain, snow,” Brennan said.

Brennan agrees the summit is a way to open up the discussion, but also spread the word to the general public.

“People tend to be reluctant to relinquish control of a vehicle, particularly in situations where they might not understand everything that’s underneath the hood literally or figuratively,” Brennan said.

Richards said the yielding control to technology could keep our roads safer.

She said 94% of fatalities on the road are due to human distraction but using automated technology could bring that number down to zero.

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