Gridlock Guy: Uber/Google partnership could end traffic woes

Gridlock updatesMark Arum’s column appears Mondays. Listen to his traffic reports daily on News 95.5 and AM750 WSB, and see him each morning on Channel 2 Action News. Connect with Mark on Twitter: @markarum.

Loyal readers of this column know that I am a huge fan of two technologies that I feel can hugely reduce our traffic woes. One of these technologies is currently in use, Uber, and the second, self-driving vehicles, is something that I think will have a massive impact in the future. Ironically these two technologies have recently merged in Pittsburgh as Uber is set to test self-driving vehicles in its fleet in Pennsylvania. This is great news for traffic but unfortunate news for Uber drivers.

For those of you that are unfamiliar with Uber, it is basically a fleet of individually owned vehicles that are available on demand through your smart phone. With a couple of clicks you can order a car to pick you up and drive you where ever you want. Basically, a taxi on-demand.

The fact that a technological behemoth like Uber is ready to adopt self-driving vehicles is a huge sign that the technology will indeed be a game changer in the transportation world.

In a press release posted on it’s website Uber explains it’s testing of self-driving vehicles and the impact it could have on travel, safety an traffic.

“Real-world testing is critical to our efforts to develop self-driving technology. Self-driving cars have the potential to save millions of lives and improve quality of life for people around the world. 1.3 million people die every year in car accidents — 94 percent of those accidents involve human error. In the future we believe this technology will mean less congestion, more affordable and accessible transportation, and far fewer lives lost in car accidents. These goals are at the heart of Uber’s mission to make transportation as reliable as running water — everywhere and for everyone.”

For years now I’ve been extolling the future virtues of self-driving vehicles as not only a much safer way to travel our roads, but a way, to realistically, end our traffic issues. Picture an Atlanta with no more bumper-to-bumper traffic and an Atlanta with 94 percent fewer crashes. That Atlanta is within our reach.

Uber’s testing of self-driving cars is a small, early step down the road to delay free roads.

“Right now we’re focused on getting the technology right and ensuring it’s safe for everyone on the road — pedestrians, cyclists and other drivers. We’ve informed local officials and law enforcement about our testing in Pittsburgh, and our work would not be possible without the support we’ve received from the region’s leaders,” Uber stated.

The rise of Uber in the transportation world has been stunning, totally changing the previous dynamic of how to get from Point A to Point B using technology. The company hopes to introduce self-driving vehicles into it’s fleet by 2020, less than four years from now.

With Uber, Google and traditional automakers all with an eye toward self-driving cars, I think it is pretty easy to see our transportation future will have fewer human drivers and thankfully a lot less traffic backups.