Share this story...
self driving cars
Latest News

What would a Seattle filled with self-driving cars look like?

Volkswagon has produced Sedric, a self-driving car, in anticipation of a driverless future. It has no pedals or steering wheel. (AP)

The recent news that another Tesla car crashed during the use of the AutoPilot system is a reminder that self-driving cars are on their way, bugs and all. But how soon will these potentially frightening cars being zipping around our roads, and what will that look like?

Mark Hallenbeck is the director of the Washington State Transportation Center and joined the Candy, Mike and Todd Show to discuss them. He theorizes a time when people own self-driving cars, and act in ways totally not beneficial to traffic.

“You tend to do really good things for you behaviorally and bad things for everybody else. So if you work downtown your car takes you to work. You sleep in the back. Life is great. It drops you off at 3rd and Cherry,” he said. “Then it goes home, because who’s going to pay $30 to park the car at 3rd and Cherry? And so it comes back to get you at 5:00 at night. So now you just doubled the amount of vehicles on the I-5.”

How close is Washington state to using self-driving trucks?

“So imagine that even a tenth of a percent of the people in all those office buildings are stuck on the phone talking, and their cars are circling the block. Just imagine how well downtown Seattle traffic doesn’t work.”

When will we see self-driving cars in Seattle?

That reality, weird as it sounds, is still a ways off. A recent study by Rand Corp. suggests that self-driving cars would have to be on the roads in much greater numbers before any meaningful data on their safety and function can be achieved.

“They have to do a whole lot more testing and that’s the big issue with why autonomous vehicles aren’t going to come nearly as quickly as the hype says they are,” Hallenbeck said. “That’s where Google is right now; they’re trying to deal with all the weird stuff that happens out there in driving which you see on a random basis.”

The pros and cons of autonomous vehicles in Seattle

Last year, Gov. Jay Inslee signed an executive order meant to facilitate the testing of self-driving technology. Numerous companies in Washington are now doing just that, including Simple Solutions, Waymo, and Navya, among others, reports GeekWire. Bellevue and Kirkland are both looking into developing self-driving vanpools.

But seeing them in Seattle may still be a ways off.

“Seattle is one of the toughest places in the country because we have really crummy conditions for autonomous vehicles, because of the rain and things like that,” Hallenbeck said. “So I think it’ll be two to three years before you’ll see a few vehicles here.”

Listen to the Candy, Mike and Todd Show weekday afternoons from 3-7 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

Most Popular