Driverless car and autonomous driving concept and safety system symbol as a road with cars and one vehicle with human hands and arms waving up to the sky as a metaphor for hands free autopilot.

A recent CityLab report suggests that driverless car technology for evacuations might be a good solution for minimizing loss of life and the amount of destruction that occurs during hurricane season.

Referencing the devastation caused by Hurricane Matthew, the article points out that the level of destruction was much larger in the very poor neighborhoods.  It also discusses how the residents living in the more poverty stricken areas of New Orleans did not have access to transportation before Hurricane Katrina attacked the area.

John Renne, director of the Center for Urban and Environmental Solutions at Florida Atlantic University, states that evacuation plans are nonexistent for 35 of the nation’s biggest cities; this is a problem.

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According to the report, Matthew’s floodwaters rendered roads useless, and lethal in some instances, which caused traffic to back up for miles on highways. It questioned whether or not people may have been saved if they had reliable transportation and did not have to drive themselves.

The U.S. Department of Transportation is currently in the process of researching how car-to-car communications, an important part of the possible self-driving future, might assist evacuation procedures. Cars could potentially speak to one another, along with traffic lights and cameras.

These vehicles could then monitor road conditions, and offer alternate routes as needed during times of crisis.

How smart can autonomous vehicles be?

The founding director of the Center for Evacuation and Transportation Resiliency at Louisiana State University, Brian Wolshon, says that even partly self-driving vehicles can help traffic flow, if enough of them are on the road.

“Here in Louisiana, we’re affected by a lot more than just named storms,” Kali Rapp Roy, executive director of Evacuteer, explains. “If we had self-driving city buses, that would be huge.”

Perhaps one day soon, this idea will be a reality and will help rescue many people from dangerous situations.

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