Smart mobility technology, which includes automated and self-driving vehicles, is likely inevitable.
Smart mobility is about cutting emissions and traffic. When technology gets thrown into the mix, smart, electric and autonomous cars become part of the conversation.
U.S. Rep. Haley Stevens (D-Birmingham) brought that conversation to Livonia last week when she held a field hearing for the House Science Research and Technology Subcommittee, which she chairs. Her fellow representatives Michael Cloud (R-Texas) and Bill Foster (D-Illinois) were also there.
“It’s a community issue,” Stevens, the first-term representative for western Wayne and Oakland counties, said. “Michigan’s 11th district has been on the forefront of these innovations, playing a key role with our industry leaders and best in class work force.”
The subcommittee members and a witness panel comprised of Oakland County Executive David Coulter, Mark Dowd with Smart Cities Lab, Raj Rajkumar with Mobility21, professor Tierra Bills and Scott Averitt with Robert Bosch, believe smarter vehicles would dramatically reduce road accidents.
“(We’re) launching a pilot to use roadside units placed at intersections to test both smart mobility technology and multiple revenue-generating opportunities,” Coulter said of Oakland County. “Advanced safety technologies provide consumers with improved vehicle innovations that save lives. We believe these new technologies can eliminate 94 percent of fatal crashes involving human error.”
Coulter added that some of those safety innovations will come soon to Interstate 75 between 8 Mile Road and M-59 through a Michigan Department of Transportation project.
“Cars can receive information about road conditions on the freeway, on road conditions, backups, curve lines ahead, that sort of thing,” he said.
Stevens said she believes there’s a federal role to be played in the local implementation of these technologies.
“The big thing is safety,” she said. “We are looking to save lives with new technologies that create better outcomes for individual drivers.”
But, the biggest change drivers likely will see is the mass use of autonomous vehicles. Rajkumar estimated that it will only take a decade or two for self-driving vehicles to make up a sizable portion of the vehicles on the road.
If or when those autonomous vehicles dominate the roads, Stevens said colder states like Michigan might find road quality even more important.
“I’m making it a priority to encourage the federal government to help Michigan and make sure that we’re getting our fair share of federal funding and that the assets we have here are showcased,” she said. “The state government is largely been charged with the maintenance issues, but the federal government can help with the innovations and technology.”
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