The future is here, as Bellevue and Seattle plan for self-driving cars for transit, deliveries

On Thursday, Bellevue and Seattle released a strategy for preparing, planning, and implementing self-driving vehicles in the cities.

The strategy referred to automated vehicles, or AVs, as self-driving cars, rideshares, transit buses, delivery devices, and drones.

The cities said this strategy is needed because AVs are definitely coming in the future and they want to be prepared for how they will impact the city and change the flow of traffic. They also want to keep citizens safe.

The plan looked at how weather, road conditions, driving with other vehicles, objects on the road, and more obstacles, will affect AVs in Seattle and Bellevue. One issue, the cities said, is that AVs haven’t been tested in enough real-life scenarios.

The strategy outlined the pros and cons of having AVs.

The pros of AVs are:

  • Saving lives and reducing the number of crashes.

  • Improving traffic flow with AVs being able to maintain a safe speed and following distance, therefore reducing the number of crashes and stop-and-go traffic.

  • Reducing greenhouse gas emissions and saving fuel costs.

  • Offering more independence for people with driving disabilities.

  • Increased productivity, by getting back time that would be taken by driving.

The cons of having AVs are:

  • AVs have only been tested in controlled environments. They haven’t been tested with inclement weather. They also haven’t been tested on enough real-world situations and interactions a driver can face on the road.

  • AV manufacturers may make the technology expensive and only cater to those who can afford it.

  • With differing opinions on who is responsible for the safety of passengers in AVs, there are often no clear safety standards and regulations to follow.

  • AVs will be dropping passengers off, leaving them empty. This could lead to more traffic, as empty AVs would circle around looking for people to pick up.

  • There is potential for AVs to take people’s jobs.

In 2020, partners for Automated Vehicle Education surveyed over 1,200 adults across the U.S. to get their thoughts on current AV technology.

50% of the respondents said they already had cars with ADAS features. Yet, nearly 75% of survey respondents said they are not ready for full deployment of AVs and 20% percent said they think AVs will never be safe. 58% of respondents believe that they would have more trust in AVs if they had a chance to experience an AV ride firsthand.

The future steps the cities outline for AVs are more testing, educating people on AVs, getting grant funding to make AVs more equitable, and designating AV parking, among other things.

“Regardless of whether we like it or not, automated vehicles are coming, and we need to be prepared for how we want them to shape our communities,” the plan said.