Autonomous Vehicle Expert Lectures in Traverse City about Pitfalls and Promise of Self-Driving Cars

Experts say self-driving cars are the future of transportation.

Just this week, Ford announced plans to build a new Michigan factory just for building autonomous vehicles.

Thursday night, autonomous vehicle expert Dr. Samuel Kling spoke at a forum in Traverse City to look at the pitfalls and promise of self-driving cars.

He says self-driving cars are no longer something out of a science fiction movie. They’re the future – and something automakers and cities want to prepare for.

“This is predicted to be a $7 billion market by 2050,” said Kling. “Everyone is convinced that this will happen eventually.”

Kling is a researches autonomous vehicles as a fellow at the Chicago Council of Global Affairs.

“I do research on big issues facing cities around the world,” said Kling. “There’s a lot of promise [with self-driving cars] but a lot of pitfalls if cities take a reactive approach, they’re likely to face real problems that will be hard to address.”

Those issues include parking, policing, regulating and infrastructure upgrades. Self-driving cars will require less lane space, thus fitting more people onto roads.

Because self-driving cares may be shared and on-the-go, the need for parking will decrease. Kling said cities will have to rethink how to use parking lots, which will become emptier.

Another consideration, is that autonomous vehicles could mean mobility for people who can’t drive.

“This gives them the potential to maintain their freedom and do it in a safe fashion, and do it affordably, and in a way that’s safe for everyone involved,” said Kling.

Safety might also be improved. Kling says 90 percent of accidents are because of human error. Kling says people are not great drivers and computerized drivers could reduce car crashes.

On the flip side, they could create more traffic, and would require a lot of work for government officials to creating new regulations.

Drivers in Traverse City had some concerns about the future of autonomous vehicles.

“It’s crazy! How can people trust a car is going to get you where you need to go?” said Chris Derocher, who lives in Traverse City.

James Krout of East Jordan says he wonders if the cars could handle hazardous driving conditions.

“I think that would be worse because of the icy conditions we get in the winter, the hazard that roads can cause,” said Krout. “I think they could be dangerous to other drivers.”

Ford has said that they want to see self-driving taxis and food and delivery transport cars by 2021 in select cities.

The company’s $900 million autonomous vehicle factory may be open the same year.