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VIDEO: Driverless cars in Georgia? Hunter tells lawmakers about sticky issues that lie ahead

Monday, September 22, 2014

One of Google's self-driving cars. CEE's Michael Hunter told Georgia lawmakers last week they will have to confront a number of tricky issues if they decide to allow such vehicles on the state's roadways. (Photo Courtesy of Mariordo via Wikimedia Commons.)
 

A Georgia House of Representatives committee is studying what hurdles the state would face if it allowed driverless cars on roadways. Associate Professor Michael Hunter was a key witness at a hearing last week, outlining some of the engineering and traffic problems that will have to be solved if lawmakers decide to allow the autonomous vehicles.

Watch Hunter's testimony here.

More from the Atlanta Business Chronicle's Dave Williams:

Thorny legal and engineering issues lie ahead before self-driving cars can be let loose on Georgia highways, members of a legislative study committee heard during testimony Thursday.

Transportation planners and traffic enforcement agencies will face at least several decades of highways forced to serve “mixed fleets,” fully autonomous vehicles and completely driver-controlled cars on the roads at the same time, said Mike Hunter, a professor at Georgia Tech’s School of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

“Until you guys are ready to tell people they can’t drive their [driver-controlled] cars, the system is going to be based on people,” Hunter told a study committee formed by the state House of Representatives to examine the challenges involved in legalizing self-driving vehicles.

Hunter outlined a series of scenarios likely to occur with mixed fleets that would prevent self-driving vehicles from fulfilling one of their chief goals: reducing traffic congestion by letting cars cluster closer together.

“How close will you let a driverless car get to a non-driverless car?” he asked. “If you allow the same following distance that’s allowed today, you won’t increase [traffic] capacity and reduce congestion.”

Likewise, Hunter warned of driverless cars causing “rolling roadblocks” by driving the speed limit – as they’re programmed to do – on Atlanta’s Perimeter Highway.