A test of an autonomous Uber vehicle ended in tragedy earlier this month when a woman walking a bicycle in Tempe, Arizona suddenly stepped in front of the car and was killed.
Uber and other manufacturers suspended their testing as systems were reexamined, but they are about to get operations back in gear. Boston has announced they are ready to let driverless cars back on city streets for testing, and other metropolitan areas are expected to follow suit.
Quietly, Texas has become a ground zero for the newest development in automotive technology in decades, driven by a booming population that will increase 40% over the next 25 years and the booming economy that sustains them.
Dr. Christopher Poe heads up the Texas Automated Vehicle Proving Ground Partnership on the Texas A&M Campus where he leads the Transportation Institute, and says everyone is in on the action. “Whether it’s the traditional companies like the Fords, GM’s and Toyota, or new players in this market like Uber and Google, which has spun off a company called Waymo,” he says.
Houston, with the largest number of high-occupancy-vehicle lanes on major thoroughfares of any major US city, and special needs areas like the Texas Medical Center, has become a major focus. “Houston has one of the world’s largest H-O-V systems and there is interest in seeing of automation can be put on buses to make them operate more safely and efficiently in HOV lanes,” Dr. Poe explains.
Consumers don’t seem as excited as developers, but there doesn’t seem to be much that will slow down progress as it reshapes and redefines the transportation sector of our lives.