Frequently Asked Questions
Autonomous vehicles, or self-driving vehicles, are cars that can operate in any situation on roadways without required actions or input by a driver. This is accomplished through technology that allows the car to sense and “see” its environment to make decisions that a human driver is both currently responsible for, and actions that they may not be capable of performing. For example, an autonomous vehicle is able to sense a deer in a forest and prepare to stop, while a human driver would not be able to react until the deer has crossed onto the road.
There are many semi-autonomous features in cars today, such as adaptive cruise control, lane departure assist and warnings, automatic braking, and collision notification. However, these features still require the driver to have continuous input and actions in order for the car operate safely. The ultimate goal, which the example above exhibits, is for vehicles to be fully autonomous—or driverless—to maximize efficiency and save lives that would ultimately be lost due to human error.
Connected vehicles allow cars to "talk to" each other, the roads they use, and even to pedestrians and cyclist who have mobile devices. Using wireless technologies, these communications support a range of applications that focus on safety, mobility and environmental benefits.
Connected vehicles rely on a range of communications systems including dedicated short-range communications (DSRC), global navigation satellite systems (GNSS), cellular technology, and even satellite radio. DSRC was designed for a vehicular environment and includes the security, privacy and performance features necessary to support this environment. Additionally, many vehicles today are already "connected" through cellular technology.
Connected vehicles have the ability to continually transmit vehicle position, direction, and speed. These communications will enable safety functions, such as collision avoidance and work zone warnings, as well as applications to improve mobility and the environment, such as providing optimal travel speeds to make the green lights ahead. Connected vehicles will also be able to serve as data collectors and anonymously transmit traffic and road condition information to support roadway operations.
According to United States Department of Transportation (USDOT), it is anticipated that further deployment of connected vehicle technologies will occur over the next 20-years as existing infrastructure systems are replaced or upgraded. It is anticipated that by 2040, 80 percent of the intersections in the United States will be transmitting information to vehicles, while it is estimated that 90 percent of light vehicles will be sharing information with the roads they use.
According to the National Safety Council, there has been a 6 percent increase in motor-vehicle deaths since 2015, and 2016 was the first time that annual fatality has exceeded 40,000 since 2007 to reach an estimated 40,200 deaths. According to USDOT, connected vehicles provide the means to potentially address about 81 percent of all-vehicle target crashes; 83 percent of all light-vehicle target crashes; and 72 percent of all heavy-truck target crashes annually.
Through the use of technology, alerts will warn travelers of emerging dangerous situations and provide them guidance to avert crashes. As an example, motorists will be automatically warned via an in-vehicle device that they are approaching a work zone or lane closure at an unsafe speed and that they need to slow down and switch lanes.
Connected vehicle safety applications that are being developed, tested, and deployed in pilot programs that make the roads safer for everyone.
Increased mobility efficiency is one of the main benefits that connected and automated vehicle technology offers. According to the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, traffic congestion in the United States caused drivers to waste more than 3 billion gallons of fuel and kept travelers stuck in their cars for nearly 7 billion extra hours which equates to 42 hours per rush-hour commuter. These delays costs travelers $160 million in lost productivity and wasted fuel nationally.
Connected and automated vehicle technology provides transportation agencies the ability to maximize efficiency through real-time management of traffic, transit, and parking operations. Those responsible for managing transportation systems can use the data generated by vehicles on the roads and rails, by sensors imbedded in the infrastructure, and by mobile devices such as smartphones to keep traffic flowing smoothly. Further, mobility applications will enable travelers to plan the most efficient, time-saving, and greenest commute.
Emissions from vehicles are the single largest human-made source of carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and methane. Vehicles that are stationary, idling, and traveling in a stop-and-go pattern due to congestion emit more greenhouse gases than those traveling in free-flow conditions.
Connected vehicle technologies enable the capture, processing, and distribution of real-time data that can be used to support more environmentally friendly operational decisions, both on the part of transportation system managers and the individual travelers.
As an example from the perspective of a traveler, an eco-friendly application that adjusts traffic signals to help make fewer stops and starts when driving would decrease air pollution. Another application would give priority to transit vehicles at intersections, which would increase the number of people passing through an intersection, help transit vehicles adhere to their schedules, and make public transportation more appealing.