Editorial | Island Voices Hawaii should prepare now for driverless vehicles By Reps. Gene Ward and K. Mark Takai Jan. 22, 2013 Mahalo for supporting Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Enjoy this free story! Read more Mahalo for reading the Honolulu Star-Advertiser! You're reading a premium story. Read the full story with our Print & Digital Subscription. Subscribe Now Read this story for free: Watch an ad or complete a survey Log In Already a subscriber? Log in now to continue reading this story. Activate Digital Account Print subscriber but without online access? Activate your Digital Account now. Robots are building cars, fighting wars and vacuuming our floors, and though they’re still not quite ready to drive us to work, they’re getting closer. We’ve heard of self-parking cars, but things are moving rapidly toward self-driving cars. For example, Nissan’s new electric Leaf will now be able to park itself without a person being inside the vehicle. Volvo, GM and Ford are soon to release a technology that senses the car in front of you and automatically adjusts your speed, and has lane-departure warning systems. The cars also will be able to autonomously steer and brake through stop-and-go traffic. And if you’re not paying attention at the wheel, Lexus is coming out with a technology that can tell if drivers are getting drowsy or don’t have their eyes on the road. Even more advanced is the 2013 Mercedes S Class, which features a fully autonomous mode for sub-25 mph speeds when the vehicle will actually drive itself. But all these examples pale in view of what Google has accomplished over the past few years, in an experimental self-driving Prius that has driven itself through the streets of Nevada and California for more than 300,000 miles without a single accident. Google appears to be leading the way into the future of autonomous driving, but many wonder where this will all be taking us. So far, Nevada, Florida and California have passed laws that explicitly make self-driving vehicles legal. And that is why a few of us in Hawaii’s Legislature will be introducing legislation this session to get Hawaii up to speed. We need to explore how we can save precious lives, time and money for the people of Hawaii. For example, would autono-mous cars increase highway safety? According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, human error causes 95 percent of all traffic accidents, and this is where the new “driverless technologies” could help. Computers, unlike humans, don’t get tired or drunk or have drugs in their systems (now said to be 1 in 7 persons on our highways). More than 35,000 Americans are killed annually on our highways, with multiple thousands more injured or maimed. Next to saving lives, could autonomous cars actually save us money? According to The Associated Press, Americans spent an average of $4,155 on gasoline in 2011. Computer-driven cars would be the least likely to get lost, waste time, or run into other cars, people or objects with its precise GPS, radar and other sensing devices embedded throughout the car. The costs we pay for the loss of life and injuries and car repairs are staggering. In 2010 there were 5.4 million police-reported motor vehicle traffic crashes in the United States. Of these, 1.54 million caused injuries and nearly 3.85 million caused property damage. These statistics alone could scare a lot of us out of the driver’s seat. In addition to saving lives and saving money, autonomous cars could likely save us time. On Oahu alone, it has been reported that Honolulu commuters waste an average of 58 hours in traffic congestion annually. Autonomous vehicles can be used on existing roads, and require smaller lane widths than conventional vehicles, which may lead to more lanes without construction of more road space. And when put in line as a caravan of driverless cars, literally mass transit systems are generated where many vehicles travel at high speeds at close distances and put an end to stop-and-go congestion. Previous Story Letters to the Editor Next Story 'A solid financial footing'