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Self-Driving Cars Could Improve Evacuation Procedures

November 04, 2016

Self-Driving Cars Could Improve Hurricane Evacuation Procedures

Hurricane Matthew sent millions of families in coastal areas of Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas to evacuation destinations across the country. Evacuees were forced to contend with flooded roads, downed trees and power lines, and backed up highways. Some families were injured in car accidents while simply trying to move out of potentially dangerous areas. Now, the United States Department of Transportation is speculating that more lives could have been saved through self-driving vehicles. The US DOT has been studying how car-to-car communications could improve future evacuation procedures—getting more people out of danger in a safer, easier fashion.

It is speculated that self-driving vehicles could present several major advantages, including significantly improving traffic flow. During current evacuations, crowding and slower reaction times create slow moving conditions. Autonomous vehicles would travel closer together at a continuous rate of speed, safely transporting more passengers where they need to be. To see this kind of effect, however, you would need to have a large number of self-driving cars.

A Step In-Between

While fully autonomous vehicles are still expected to be more than a decade from mass dispersal, evacuations could benefit in the short term from "connected" cars. Automakers are aggressively developing and releasing to the public vehicles that are a step down from fully autonomous ones, but represent a major step forward from current exclusively human-controlled cars. Semi-autonomous vehicles have the ability to communicate with other vehicles and traffic infrastructures, such as lights and cameras.

In the event of a hurricane or other natural disaster, these connected vehicles can help improve traffic flow and keep people safe by providing drivers with traffic and route information, input as to gas, food, and shelter, and much more. While autonomous vehicles may be able to save many lives, the potential of connected cars should not be overlooked.

Autonomous Rescue Vehicles

Those without transportation are often the most at-risk in the event of a hurricane or other disaster. Autonomous vehicles could greatly improve the ability of the government to move stranded people out of harm's way. Even still, the use of self-driving vehicles in such emergency situations does raise concerns about reliability. Autonomous vehicles are not typically tested in abnormal conditions, such as flooded roads. Presently, software on the vehicles may not be equipped to handle such extreme situations. With further development and testing, however, it seems likely that vehicle manufacturers could develop evacuation buses and other vehicles that are prepared to deal with whatever harsh circumstances they may encounter.

Drive Safely During Evacuations

Hurricane Matthew has forced all of us to consider what we would do if we were forced to evacuate due to a natural disaster. Follow the steps below to prepare and conduct a safe evacuation:

• Pack water and food in case you become stranded;
• Be sure your cell phone is charged and bring a car charger if you can;
• Determine where you are going in advance;
• Carefully plan your route, but prepare for detours;
• Have a paper map in the vehicle in case your GPS stops working;
• Be sure your car is ready for the trip, including topping off all fluid levels and your gas tank;
• Be prepared to sit in stop-and-go traffic for some time;
• Maintain your cool and do not become distracted.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a car, truck, or other motor vehicle accident in Georgia, contact our Atlanta car accident lawyers at Montlick and Associates. Our experienced automobile accident attorneys assist car accident victims across Georgia and in the Southeast. Contact us to schedule your Free Consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333). You can also visit us online at and use our Free Case Evaluation Form or 24-hour Live Online Chat.

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All information provided by our blogs is general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Consult a Montlick attorney for details about your unique situation.

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