Infrastructure upgrades needed for self-driving cars

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Most wouldn’t argue, it would be nice to sit back and let your car do the driving. Matt Smith with the Michigan Department of Transportation’s Intelligent Transportation Systems says it’s not as far off as some may think.

“We’re leveraging a lot of communications technology. We already have the same communications technology that allows us to get these camera images back from the roadway back to this traffic operations center,” Smith said.

Smith says a chunk of what’s needed for autonomous driving is already in place.  It’s just a matter of upgrading the current technology and infrastructure.

“Road agencies, such as Michigan Department of Transportation, we can take our signal and timing information and broadcast them into the vehicle and the vehicle can then use that to determine how fast a vehicle should go, whether they need to slow down for lights,” Smith explained.

And that is a major part of what’s driving the push for autonomous cars.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 35,000 people died on U.S. roadways in 2015 alone.

The feds say automated driving could dramatically decrease those numbers, pointing out 94 percent of crashes can be tied to human choice or error.

While Michigan already has M-City, a 32-acre facility in Ann Arbor where autonomous vehicles are being tested.  What will it take to get the whole state up and running?

“Fortunately a lot of it comes from the private side. We’re just here to provide supporting information for them to use,” Smith said.

Some estimate we could have automated driving in 20 years.

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