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Self-Driving Cars Will Soon Run Errands, Drive Kids To School

Google self driving car at the Computer History Museum.
Flickr Photo/Don DeBold (CC BY 2.0)/
Google self driving car at the Computer History Museum.

In five years, self-driving cars will be on the road.

Let that sink in.

Our freeways will be more efficient, because there will be fewer crashes. Mark Hallenbeck, director of the Washington State Transportation Center, told KUOW’s Bill Radke that could mean double the number of cars on the freeway.

But, he said, self-driving cars could be put to work during the day, picking up laundry and shepherding kids to school. That means that they won’t just sit in a lot all day – they’ll be adding congestion to the roads.

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“You've dumped all of this extra traffic on top of it,” Hallenbeck said. “Maybe you don't care that it takes you two hours to get to work because you are busy typing your report for the day.”

Not that public transportation and mass transit won’t be needed, he said.

“Doubling the capacity of the freeway doesn't come close to the amount of person movement, vehicle movement that you're going to need in a growing urban area,” he said. “There’s going to be another million people roughly in this area in the next 15 years.”

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This new world won’t happen in the next five years though. Given that fleets take 12 years to turn over, Hallenbeck said we may live in a world of self-driving cars in about 20 years.                 

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