Self-driving cars require better maintained roads

Self-driving cars may have advantages but they might also require spending more on road upkeep:

Shoddy infrastructure has become a roadblock to the development of self-driving cars, vexing engineers and adding time and cost. Poor markings and uneven signage on the 3 million miles of paved roads in the United States are forcing automakers to develop more sophisticated sensors and maps to compensate, industry executives say.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk recently called the mundane issue of faded lane markings “crazy,” complaining they confused his semi-autonomous cars…

An estimated 65 percent of U.S. roads are in poor condition, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, with the transportation infrastructure system rated 12th in the World Economic Forum’s 2014-2015 global competitiveness report...

To make up for roadway aberrations, carmakers and their suppliers are incorporating multiple sensors, maps and data into their cars, all of which adds cost.


It would be interesting to see some estimates of the additional costs to keep roads at a level where self-driving cars can safely operate. Does the money saved in less congestion on the roads and fewer traffic accidents outweigh the new maintenance costs?

On the other hand, having to do more frequent construction may not affect drivers as much if all cars are self-driving. Since such vehicles are supposed to improve traffic flow, construction is something drivers wouldn’t have to handle – their cars would do it for them. And, if we have driverless cars, can we have driverless maintenance vehicles?

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