6 ways self-driving cars could change your community—In partnership with Mitsubishi Motors

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Updated: May 22, 2018

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By Tyler Munro

We’re still waiting on the hover cars the cartoons of our youth promised, but that doesn’t mean auto technology hasn’t grown by leaps and bounds over the last few decades. The last few years in particular have been filled with incredible auto-innovations, the most exciting of which probably has to be the autonomous, self-driving vehicle.

They’re not quite commonplace yet, but the future is now … almost. By 2019, pedal-less cars without steering wheels will be available to the consumer market, and while we’re not expecting everyone to be early adopters, that does set some interesting things in motion. 

Here are just a few ways that the advent and age of self-driving cars could change your community.

Face-to-face seating

As cars without steering wheels or gas pedals are introduced and developed, automakers are rethinking whether the traditional seating arrangement is still necessary. There are several extremes to these innovations; some cars will feature slight seat swivels, angling the seats more towards the middle rather than having front-facing seats. In more innovative cases, some concept cars are proposing seats that all face one another. There are concerns and questions around car sickness, but it’s safety that’s holding back re-arranged seating back from becoming the norm.

Farewell to driveways

As driverless cars become more normal, it is safe to assume that we might see a drastic decline in every-day drivers. Whether it’s the result of car-sharing, ride-sharing, or hail-able services like Uber or Lyft, you could soon see driveways on the endangered species list when it comes to home and cottage design. While that would mean you might need to find a new spot for your basketball or hockey nets, it could also result in greener front yards.

Less roadkill, more wildlife

Roadkill is a very serious problem. A 2013 report showed that American vehicles hit as many as two million animals a year, which equals out to a collision roughly every 26 seconds, and that’s only factoring in reported incidents. In California alone, it’s estimated that car collisions involving wildlife cost the state over $220 million dollars. And while driverless cars won’t put an immediate stop to these collisions, simply removing human error from the equation could be a huge difference maker. 360 sensors, cloud-based ecosystem reports, and quicker-than-human reaction times could lead to major dips in incidents, meaning your drive to the cottage will have you less worried about watching for deer, and more worried about watching the sights.

Street signs will change

Driverless cars are still in their infancy, which means they can still be tricked. Sometimes, that happens with signage; researchers and pranksters alike have proven that you can trick some driverless cars by tweaking or outright vandalizing street signs. Companies like 3M, meanwhile, is installing barcodes and signifiers invisible to the naked eye that help driverless cars geolocate themselves, or indicate upcoming traffic or road-infrastructure changes. That’s just one of the ways road signage will change as driverless cars become more and more commonplace; you’ll likely see signage shrink, at least insofar as the road rules are concerned — stop signs will be replaced with billboards. You won’t likely see fewer street signs, but you will likely see fewer signs pertaining to the streets. Imagine pop-up ads on your street corners. It could happen.

Intersections and street crossing

When everything inevitably starts running off of an algorithm, researchers at MIT predict that “intelligent intersections” will see double the amount of cars passing through an intersection compared to our current traffic-light system. This means things will change for pedestrians, too; the timing will perhaps become more complex, and pedestrians might have to be more savvy, or even aggressive, to get where they’re going. But as the sensors and systems that power driverless cars become more and more sophisticated, these chaotic intersections might actually be safer. Additionally, Mitsubishi Motors now has available Forward Collision Mitigation and Pedestrian Detection.

People will spread out

As the costs around driverless cars level out over time, overall transportation costs will follow. Because of that, researchers tell CNN that you can expect more and more people moving out of urban cores. The daily commute might not feel so bad when you’re not actively driving, and as commuter train takers will attest to, the ability to get some work done (or do some reading … or napping) on your way to work has its perks.