The self-driving car has strong potential for improving traffic flow, road safety, and reducing the environmental impact of traffic. But only if it is designed to communicate with other cars and smart road systems. Not all self-driving cars fulfill this requirement. In the report Converging Roads the Rathenau Instituut -a Dutch organization for assessment of science, technology and society- calls for an integral innovation approach that requires European policy makers and companies to set up standards for the development and implementation of this new technology. At the same time it is recommended to adopt rules for the safe use and protection of sensitive user data.
There are two approaches in the field of self-driving cars. First, the autonomous robot car, like Google's autonomous robot car which finds its way using on board sensors. Second, the cooperative (connected) car, which communicates with other cars and with the road infrastructure. European policy makers chose the latter, given the contribution that cooperative cars can make to road safety, improved traffic flow, and cleaner mobility -- important policy goals.
According to the study Converging roads, self-driving cars will bring a drastic change to the current mobility system. And if this change is to be accepted, public and civil society have to be involved in the entire innovation and policy making process to a greater extent than occurs at present. To realize the full potential of self-driving cars, benefits of both the autonomous robot car being independent of other cars or road infrastructure and the connected car should be combined. This requires standardization of vehicle communication and active involvement in developing international standards.
"If the Netherlands and the EU want to achieve their goals, we need to adopt requirements for vehicle communication and set international standards in this field. And we cannot forget the safety and privacy of users considering the sensitivity these cars will collect." says Dr. Melanie Peters, director of the Rathenau Institute.
Report title: Timmer J., B. Pel, L. Kool, R. van Est & F. Brom, Converging roads -- Linking self-driving cars to public goals. The Hague, Rathenau Instituut 2015
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