Failure to invest in roadway infrastructure in the United States may delay the ultimate commercialization of driverless vehicles. “An estimated 65 percent of U.S. roads are in poor condition, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, with the transportation infrastructure system rated 12th in the World Economic Forum’s 2014-2015 global competitiveness report.”
The Huffington Post noted, “Shoddy infrastructure has become a roadblock to the development of self-driving cars, vexing engineers and adding time and cost. Poor markings and uneven signage on the 3 million miles of paved roads in the United States are forcing automakers to develop more sophisticated sensors and maps to compensate, industry executives say.” More advanced sensors will add more cost to driverless vehicles.
New street materials could mitigate the need for expensive sensors. “…An easier fix might be customizing road materials to make streets more visible in all kinds of conditions. Roadways can also vary widely in terms of materials and signage. As driverless cars increase in popularity, a new set of road standards will emerge to ensure that street materials and markings are optimized for the new vehicles.”
Repaving 3 million miles of roadways for the benefit of driverless vehicles may slow the commercialization of this form of transportation to a crawl. This effect may delight the auto insurance industry, which could otherwise witness a huge loss of revenue because driverless vehicles are inherently safer than vehicles under human control. Thus, the demand for auto insurance may drastically plummet with the advent of driverless vehicles. This insurance issue was addressed in my previous post.Driverless Vehicles, SBIR Consultant, Shoddy Infrastructure, U.S. Department of Transportation