No more driver's licenses by 2040?

As autonomous driving technology improves, drivers' days behind the wheel may be numbered.

Driver's licenses have long been considered a primary form of identification, a rite of passage, and a virtual necessity for many Americans. They may also soon be a thing of the past.

With autonomous car technology on the rise and remarkably close to mainstream, we may soon start to see machines doing our driving for us. Not only has Google's fleet of autonomous Toyota Prius hybrids logged more than 300,000 miles, but companies like BMW and Audi are also investing in autonomous technology. GM's Cadillac division has plans to roll out partially autonomous vehicles as soon as 2015.

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) recently predicted that up to 75 percent of cars on the road in 2040 will be of the driver-less variety. Beyond that, the group suggested that driving infrastructure and attitudes may change once autonomous cars become the norm.

For one thing, self-driving cars, programmed to detect approaching vehicles and implementing forms of vehicle-to-vehicle communication, will not require the assistance of traffic lights.

“Suppose all cars are connected and a central station knows precisely their position and destination,” Dr. Alberto Broggi, IEEE senior member and professor of computer engineering at the University of Parma, in Italy, told Wired. “The central station can send speed adjustment commands to the vehicles that enter an intersection in such a way that they do not collide and they occupy the intersection area one at a time, optimizing their movements. In this case, traffic lights will not be required since coordination is reached at a higher level.”

Furthermore, if cars no longer need humans to pilot them, the IEEE suggests that driver's licenses may come to seem redundant.

The organization predicts that the biggest barrier to widespread adoption of driverless cars may not be the technology itself, but public acceptance of the idea.

“As more vehicular controls begin being automated, such as parallel parking and automatic braking, people will become more accepting of autonomous technologies,” Jeffrey Miller, IEEE member and associate professor of computer systems engineering at the University of Alaska-Anchorage, told Wired. “So by 2040, driverless vehicles will be widely accepted and possibly be the dominant vehicles on the road.”

Readers, how do you feel about a future without drivers?

Photo: U.S. Department of Transportation

via [Wired]

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