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Autonomous, or self-driving, vehicles will present economic and accessibility advantages that didn’t exist before. Autonomous vehicles can reduce traffic delays, increase mobility options, and change how we work, purchase goods and services, and invest in major infrastructure projects. This change will bring challenges and opportunities.
These technological strides hint at significant benefits and opportunities that will result in changes to the region’s character, necessitating a shift in short- and long-term planning efforts.
This requires growing cities, counties, and the Houston-Galveston Area Council to work together to lead the way in preparing the region for autonomous vehicles.
Autonomous vehicles can significantly benefit users, reducing traffic congestion and roadway fatalities that result from driver error. Without the need for an engaged driver, individuals are free to pursue other activities while en route.
Vulnerable populations, such as the elderly and disabled, may particularly benefit from a technology that removes the need for specific abilities or skillsets to operate a vehicle, thus allowing those individuals greater freedom, autonomy, and employment options.
Future input from municipalities and advocacy groups will be necessary to ensure safety and certification requirements guiding autonomous vehicles serving vulnerable populations are met.
The Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, in partnership with Texas Southern University and the Houston-Galveston Area Council, plan to begin a closed-loop pilot.
program running a bus along a shared-use path that cuts across the university’s campus in 2019. Future phases of the pilot may include operating the bus on Cleburne Street. This project is a significant component of Texas’ designation as an autonomous vehicle proving ground by the U.S. Department of Transportation in 2016.
The Houston-Galveston Area Council continues to work with regional entities to move forward. Plans include developing a Connected & Automated Vehicle Vision Statement and Strategic Plan.
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