When it comes to adopting self-driving cars and trucks, the easiest part may well be building them. The far more difficult task will be maintaining our urban transportation infrastructures for autonomous vehicles to be functional, safe and practical.
Consider that last year, a modified Audi completed a 3,400-mile cross-country trip, driving itself 99% of the time. The 1% of roadway the car couldn’t navigate on its own: construction zones and other complicated traffic situations—hallmarks of urban traffic.
What will cities have to do to get ready for the transition to the autonomous car? For starters, they will have to maintain everything from complex intersections to lane markings to the specifications expected by vehicle software designers. Without a city’s commitment to certain standards, self-driving autos might freeze in place on streets lacking clear lane markings. Similarly, unmanned vehicles might proceed at speed through an intersection where a stop sign has been removed by college students or knocked down the night before by an impaired human.