How driverless cars will change travel

December 22, 2017 by Jocelyn Anderson, UC Davis
Credit: iStock/chombosan

The idea of a completely autonomous vehicle is exciting—and a bit scary. As we envision future advancements on the road, many would like to know just how much driverless cars could change human travel.

For answers, we went to Lewis Fulton, co-director at the Sustainable Transportation Energy Pathways program of Institute of Transportation Studies at UC  Davis. He and his team have plotted scenarios for what our transportation could look like in the future—and what needs to happen to receive the most benefits from new technologies like automation.

Partially automated cars, he said, are becoming a reality. Some vehicles are already on the roads, as Google and Uber test fleets in the U.S. Tesla seems to be closest to a commercial option, with self-driving hardware now on all its cars. Though some hands-free driving is possible already on the highway, so far, the cars currently transition control back to a driver on other roads. 

Some analysts have predicted fully will be available as soon as 2020. Others say they could be a decade away.

"We don't know when automakers will be ready to fully commercialize them, or when governments will be ready to allow them," said Fulton. "There's just a lot of hype right now. But the most important thing for me is that [people] realize this transition is not automatically going to provide massive benefits."

For his part, Fulton said he has been in an automated car that meandered through Stuttgart, Germany, with minimal intervention by its human driver. He said, "I've seen it. It's real—and pretty amazing. And yet this will take time. But maybe it's time we can use to plan the whole thing out in the best way possible."

Explore further: Lyft puts driverless cars to work in Boston

Related Stories

Lyft puts driverless cars to work in Boston

December 6, 2017

Lyft on Wednesday began rolling out self-driving cars with users of the smartphone-summoned ride service in Boston in a project with technology partner nuTonomy.

Intel set to roll out 100 self-driving cars

August 9, 2017

Silicon Valley giant Intel on Wednesday announced plans for a fleet of self-driving cars following its completion of the purchase of Israeli autonomous technology firm Mobileye.

Self-driving cars are coming—but are we ready?

July 27, 2017

It's been 60 years since the cover of Popular Mechanics magazine gave us the promise of flying cars. But our personal mobility options remain, today and for the foreseeable future, earthbound. Will the promise of self-driving ...

Recommended for you

Team breaks world record for fast, accurate AI training

November 7, 2018

Researchers at Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU) have partnered with a team from Tencent Machine Learning to create a new technique for training artificial intelligence (AI) machines faster than ever before while maintaining ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.