• Researchers analyzing benefits, pitfalls of self-driving cars

    Updated:

    SEATTLE - According to a new report, autonomous cars could either dramatically improve the morning commute or make it even worse.

    The study says it could go either way, depending on how lawmakers respond to the technology, according to a study from the University of Washington’s Tech Policy Lab.

    Researchers set out to analyze the benefits and pitfalls of having autonomous cars on the roads.

    One big takeaway is driverless cars could take a lot of vehicles off the road, if they're used for rideshares like the Car2Go or Reach services.

    Those services have already changed how a lot of people commute.

    Self-driving cars would be an even greater evolution.

    But the study warns that if people decide to use their autonomous car as a personal chauffeur, and don't carpool or share their ride, then there wouldn't be a reduction in cars on the road, which would make traffic worse.

    Another challenge addressed in the study is the possibility of exacerbating the problem of inequity.

    Right now, self-driving cars aren't affordable for most people.

    But, there's a risk of lower-income drivers being disproportionately targeted for traffic tickets because they can't afford an autonomous vehicle.

    Researchers say the point is that policymakers have to be strategic in planning for self-driving cars.

    They have to decide whether to take an assertive strategy and push the technology forward in Seattle or to take a more hands-off approach and let the industry develop on its own, or set limiting parameters on the technology and learn from other city's growing pains.

    Whichever the direction, researchers say decisions should be made soon, because autonomous cars are coming a lot sooner than most people think.

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