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Panel: Autonomous vehicles carry benefits and risks

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Venkat Krovi, Michelin Endowed Chair at CU-ICAR, left, and Fred Cartwright, executive director of CU-ICAR, discussed autonomous vehicles Thursday during the GSA Business Report Power Event “Transformation of the Auto Industry: A Road Map to the Future.” (Photo/Kathy Allen)

Autonomous vehicles are the future of transportation, but that automation encompasses a lot more than just a self-driving vehicle. In fact, autonomous vehicles are not a cure-all to transportation problems.

Speaking Thursday at a GSA Business Report Power Event, Fred Cartwright, executive director of the Clemson University-International Center for Automotive Research, said “we have to be very careful and make sure we don’t treat automated vehicles as this panacea to solve all of our transportation problems.”

“There’s so much growth in this region, resulting in congestion, and autonomous vehicles alone won’t solve that problem,” he said.

According to a study by the Victoria Transport Policy Institute, advantages to autonomous, or self-driving, vehicles include a decrease in accidents attributed to driver behavior, reduction in driver stress and cost, an increase in safety and more mobility for non-drivers. However, there are also many risks.

“Clearly there are many advantages, but we tend to be a little more pessimistic and look at all of the unintended wrinkles and consequences,” said Venkat Krovi, Michelin endowed chair and professor of vehicle automation at CU-ICAR.

“For example, cybersecurity is one of those wrinkles. In a previous era, anything that could go wrong with a vehicle was contained primarily within the vehicle and its immediate surroundings,” Krovi said. “Now, with the autonomous vehicle, because it has so much information technology baked into it, there are interesting hacks that people are starting to talk about. Imagine you had a vehicle using GPS to chart your course, there are slight shifts you could do in the GPS signal that would throw off the entire trajectory. I don’t mean to be an alarmist, but the case that I’m making is one for developing an entire ecosystem.”

Cartwright said it is important to have designated areas to test autonomous vehicles.

“What we’ve been working on at CU-ICAR is we are looking at designated areas where we can pilot this technology and I think that’s the only way to do it,” Cartwright said. “We need to get experience instead of using this as a wholesale solution to our transportation problems.”

He added “imagine this - If there were no limits on money and technology, and 80% of today’s vehicles could be autonomous in the next year, would that fix the problems we have today? Would that reduce traffic fatalities? We don’t know that yet.”

For the foreseeable future we will see mixed traffic – autonomous vehicles interacting with other vehicles - according to Krovi.

Reach Teresa Cutlip at 864-720-1223.

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