by Joy Massey

As the nation watches the news for what is happening with the active hurricane situation, there are more autonomous cars being tested in select cities. There has been a lot of buzz about autonomous cars and how they are the future, but all we need for the reality of that to set in is something like Hurricane Florence. An autonomous car system simply fails to be able to stand up to the storms and provide adequate transportation system to those in need, particularly when it comes to handling hurricane evacuations.

Self-driving vehicles called on command may seem like a great concept, and while their safety records continue to be evaluated and tested, there is more to the issue. These autonomous car systems have been designed to transport people 15-30 minutes away to go grocery shopping or take in a lunch out with their friends. They have not been and are not equipped to handle things like hurricane evacuations, which means all those who grow to rely on them will find themselves in deep waters trying to get out of dodge when a hurricane is headed their way.

Anyone who has ever tried to evacuate during a hurricane, or who has seen footage of people doing it on television, knows how horrible of a situation it is. Everyone is leaving and headed in the same direction, roads come to a complete standstill, and what should have taken two hours turns into an all-day project. People run out of gasoline on the sides of the roads, and the off-ramp stations have nothing to offer by dry tanks. An autonomous vehicle would need to leave, drop people off, and go back to get more people. The roads may not be open in both directions to allow for that, and in an evacuation time is of the essence, so it’s not likely that many people would make it out using this method.

There’s nothing like a natural disaster to remind us all of what the realities in life are. Autonomous on-call car systems will not stand up to natural disasters, which further points to safety concerns. Cities that rely upon providing autonomous cars to transport their citizens for routine errands will be faced with a major problem when a hurricane is headed their way, and it’s not one that self-driving on-call vehicles can help solve. 

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