Traffic expert: Honolulu ideal for driver-less vehicles - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Traffic expert: Honolulu ideal for driver-less vehicles

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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

In the not-to-distant future, cars on state highways and city streets will be driving themselves. 

And as self-driving vehicles are being road-tested on the mainland, the Atlantic magazine is calling on Honolulu to be the next city for hands-free driving testing.

Why?

Streets are uniform, most autos on the road are light-duty vehicles, and the city isn't severely congested.

Plus, the magazine notes, "Honolulu desperately needs to address its problems with gridlock and pedestrian safety, and it has consistently good weather. If driverless cars are going to take off anywhere, Oahu seems like a strong candidate for early adoption."

Panos Prevedouros, chairman of the University of Hawaii's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, agrees that Honolulu is ideal for driver-less cars.

"Not only because of congestion but because we're really not an interstate state. Our speeds everywhere are modest to low. That makes the risk quite lower than Montana," he said.

Self-driving vehicles still seem foreign to most, but they're quickly getting closer to becoming a reality for commuters.

Ford announced plans for mass production by 2021, and U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx has called self-driving technology "the most important discovery or most important innovation in surface transportation in more than 100 years."

Blue Planet Foundation's Jeff Mikulina believes Hawaii will benefit from the green potential that driver-less vehicles have, including in reducing gas consumption.

"It could be very exciting for clean energy, which is our mission, getting Hawaii off of fossil fuel. We could have much more efficient cars. We could have smarter cars," he said.

The federal government believes automated vehicles will make roads safer and reduce gridlock.

But Prevedouros said self-driving cars could initially slow down traffic.

"In the future they can be aggressive. In other words, they can be tailgating each other to save a lot of space. But in the early stages this is not going to happen," he said.

The auto industry has already introduced some aspects of self-driving in vehicles, like self-parking.

The next steps are coming fast.

"I think we think this is some Jetson vision 20 years down the line. But it's happening. They're testing it today," Mikulina said.

In a few years, it will be the norm to buckle up and let the vehicle do the driving.

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