|Scholarship Status:||Awarded 1st Place|
|Scholarship Awarded:||Transportation Vision Scholarship|
|University:||Chapman / UC Irvine|
|Date of Graduation:||2019|
Driverless Future California highways and freeways are infamously known for its traffic. Congestion on the I-5 freeway has helped to launch the state at the top of the ranks for the worst traffic in the nation. According to the Los Angeles Times back in February 2015, “commuters traveling those routes experience 2.5 million hours of delay per year . . . every hour wasted in traffic tie-ups costs motorists $16.79 on average in extra fuel and lost time.” If time is money, 2.5 million hours of delay is a tremendous amount of money wasted per year. Transportation departments, organizations, and authorities will continue working hard to mitigate traffic time by expansion, improving the efficiencies and filtering of roadway paths, and promotion alternate means of transportation, but a constant factor will always contribute to California’s notorious roadway prestige: its people. Los Angeles County and Orange County, for example, have arguably more motorists than the roads can handle at an efficient rate. If our world population continues to increase every year, going from 2015 to 2016 means the numbers generated by the Los Angeles Times are already subject to change, and in this case, increase. Continuing to rely on expansion, mitigation, and promotion cannot hold to be the solution for much longer, rather, finding a way to minimize human delay and error is. That is why we can be sure to see a future in autonomous vehicles. Suddenly, the idea of self-driving cars is becoming a reality. With the push from car companies Mercedes Benz, BMW, and Tesla to name a few, along with the recent surge of support from big name tech companies and the Obama administration, autonomous cars may soon rule the streets, starting with a few metropolitan areas and eventually nationwide. These driverless vehicles will reduce the amount of car accidents caused by human error, maximize efficiency, and increase productivity levels on a large scale. Imagining a system with uniform-like movement seems far-fetched, however, car companies have already began teaming up with tech companies in hopes to produce autonomous vehicles at large quantities for the public use. One of the reasons a driverless California will soon be the solution to the state’s traffic problem is it will take the responsibility out of human hands and into the hands of a super computer. These super computers will control cars at a programmed “maximum efficiency”, meaning the cars will move together as one, at a near perfect rate. Traffic will not be caused by people’s fatigue, lack of attention span, or natural tendencies for human error. Without having to worry about the responsibility of driving, people can also take time to do things they need to do while on the road, such as do professional work, things for personal life, and/or even sleep. Autonomous vehicles could also be the solution to flexible and efficient public transportation. If a person needs a vehicle, they could request one via phone or app, and the car could pick them up from their home and drive them to their destination. Where will all of the capital for the movement come from though? In order to fund this future, I would propose tolling California interstate highways and freeways. Gas tax dollars would be heavily severed as we move toward hybrid, electric, and autonomous vehicles, because their gas consumption will be considerably less, if not zero, and would need to be made up for. Tolling California interstate highways and freeways would also steer people away from using these amenities, and drive them toward using streets, or possibly even public transportation. If people are using autonomous vehicles, they should be let pass these toll at a cheaper rate, because they’ve supported the movement toward efficient transportation. To go even further, tech companies could possibly track how many vehicles enter and exit these tolls daily, in order to compile data for studying commute patterns and additional needs. The future of autonomous vehicles is far, but much nearer than many people think. With the State of California being the front-runner in innovative technologies and solutions, I think the opportunity to be the first to introduce autonomous vehicles to the nation and ultimately the world is something to be considered as the future. Works Cited Weikel, Dan. "California Commute State's 5 Worst Bottlenecks Are in L.A., Orange Counties." Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, 10 Feb. 2015.