Q: What are autonomous vehicles?
A: New vehicles, both cars and trucks, are continuously being produced with new technologies. Some of those technologies make the vehicle more “self-driving,” such as automatic braking, self-parking, and lane control. Some test vehicles can operate under certain conditions and on certain types of roads without a driver controlling the vehicle.
Q: How are “connected” vehicles different than “autonomous” vehicles?
A: A vehicle can be both connected and autonomous. The primary distinction is a vehicle that is just “connected” still needs a driver while a fully autonomous vehicle does not. Connected vehicles use wireless communications to communicate with each other, with the internet, and with devices installed on streets—such as lane sensors and traffic signals—to acquire and share information—such as when a signal will turn green, yellow, or red, or precisely where the edge of a lane is. The information from these connections can be used by the driver and by the vehicle; an example is automatic braking. A connected vehicle can perform some functions without a driver. While there are different “levels” of autonomous vehicles, a fully autonomous vehicle does not need a driver.
Q: What is the timeline for all of this?
A: Most new vehicles sold today are connected vehicles. Many can self-park, self-brake, and stay in well-marked lanes. Some vehicle manufacturers, technology, and service companies have announced they plan to offer fully autonomous vehicles between 2018 and 2021.
Q: Why should Portland have a connected and autonomous vehicles (CAV) policy?
A: New technology is not good or bad on its own; depending on how it is used, it can generate benefits and problems. Portland’s CAV policy is written to increase the benefits and reduce the problems from new vehicle technologies. Specifically, we want to improve safety for pedestrians, bicyclists, drivers, and passengers; to improve affordable access to jobs, housing, schools, and daily needs; and to reduce air toxics and climate pollution from vehicles.
Q: Are connected and autonomous vehicles safe?
A: Connected and autonomous vehicles are designed to improve safety for all road users. However, the technologies are new and are still being tested. Before we’re ready for full deployment of connected and autonomous vehicles on all Portland streets we want to see the vehicles tested under controlled conditions. We will use information gained from testing to refine City policies, and vehicle companies will use test information to improve safety and other functions.