Although autonomous vehicles (AVs) technology is advancing rapidly, with companies around the world now trialling the technology in real-world conditions, it will still be decades before they completely replace human-controlled cars – if ever.
Therefore, AVs will be sharing the roads with human drivers for many years to come. And a new report from the US’ Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) has warned that this will create a range of challenges that will need to be overcome.
Among the issues that will need to be considered are how the presence of AVs will change the behaviour of human drivers, what training will be required on different levels of self-driving features and how law enforcement will treat AVs and their occupants.
Report author Dr James Hedlund said that authorities must put plans in place to educate drivers about how to share the road with AVs and how to ensure they are using autonomous features safely.
He said: “The research and media attention given to autonomous vehicles often overlooks the safety implications that a mix of driver-operated and autonomous vehicles will bring. Unfortunately, ignoring the driver side of the equation may negate many of the expected safety benefits.”
Speaking to Car and Driver, Mr Hedlund added that questions of how human and autonomous drivers will react to each other are a “real worry”, and even as AVs become more commonplace, many car enthusiasts will always prefer to be in control, so it is a problem that is not going away.
The GHSA’s study found only around 20 per cent of drivers say they are likely to buy an AV – at least in the short term – and it forecast that it will be around 2050 before these cars make up the majority of traffic.
GHSA executive director Jonathan Adkins said: “Drivers are often forgotten as we discuss autonomous vehicles, but cars driven by humans will be on the road for at least another generation. As human drivers begin to share the road with different levels of autonomous vehicles, states will need to stay informed, be patient and be flexible.