Sunday, April 22, 2018

The future is now: Gonzaga professor to discuss her research into driverless cars

Posted By on Sun, Apr 22, 2018 at 8:17 AM

click to enlarge Futurama, a 1939 version of the driveless-car future.
Futurama, a 1939 version of the driveless-car future.

ROADS?! Where we're going we don't need roads!

Wait... No. We need roads, but maybe not drivers. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

Gonzaga civil engineering professor Rhonda Kae Young will discuss this idea at length next Tuesday in her presentation titled “Transportation Engineering: From Neighborhood Greenways to Driverless Interstates.”

Finally, the future is here! Total Recall’s Johnny Cab will finally be realized.
click to enlarge TOTAL RECALL
Total Recall

If this is a terrifying prospect to you, you’re not alone. In fact, a Gallup poll shows that a majority (54 percent) of Americans say they are unlikely to use self-driving cars, 59 percent would be uncomfortable riding in self-driving cars and 62 percent would be uncomfortable on the road with self-driving trucks. (However, Gallup’s number decreases the younger and more educated the survey participants are.)

There are some obvious hurdles to overcome. Professor Young recognizes this too.

"It's the big jump,” Young told the Inlander last in February 2017 in our cover story on this very subject. “We've always been forward-thinking, but we recognize now the pace and the jump that we're seeing. It's like the automobile and horse-drawn carriage kind of leap."

For Young, this is the future: A network of vehicles traveling and communicating with each other, using sophisticated maps, radar and sensors to avoid accidents.

More than 7.2 million vehicle crashes were reported to the police in 2016, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Commission. Among those were 37,461 fatalities and more than 3 million injuries. And while the technology could improve human safety in the long run, it could also have major implications on commerce.

Young will discuss her research into this topic at the event. She is currently leading Gonzaga’s team in a seven-university partnership with a $14 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Per Gonzaga:

Under her leadership, students explore the benefits of “connected” vehicles that monitor roadways and share information via short-range frequency. The future of connected vehicles (driverless or human-controlled) can alleviate traffic congestion, generate safety messages, signal poor road and weather conditions and enhance trip planning.

Additionally, Young works with the city of Spokane and Gonzaga civil engineering students to plan the community’s first “greenway” on Cincinnati Street. A “greenway” is a street with limited access that is designed for biking, pedestrians and public transportation.

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