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Disclaimer—This paper partially fulfills a writing requirement for first year (freshman) engineering students at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering. This paper is a student, not a professional, paper. This paper is based on publicly available information and may not provide complete analyses of all relevant data. If this paper is used for any purpose other than these authors’ partial fulfillment of a writing requirement for first year (freshman) engineering students at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, the user does so at his or her own risk.
Justin Komp (

Almost all people must drive to their work place. This can take several hours longer than if they were driving the same distance on off hours. Often this is due to horrible traffic conditions during rush hour. This is wasted time. But what if humans did not have to drive? What if cars could communicate with each other and adapt to situations dynamically? Self-driving cars take human error out of the equation. I am very interested in this topic. I have always been interested in transportation since I was a little kid. I strongly believe self-driving cars will revolutionize how people move around this world. Almost every single person in the field thinks this is one of the biggest revolutions in transportation since the Model T. Several different large companies are investing in this technology. Uber, Google, and Tesla have all made individual self-driving cars, however no company has truly implemented Vehicle to Vehicle communication yet. This is a very new technology that will revolutionize transportation.
For the past 75 years, our society has been entirely dependent and based around the automobile. Suburban life was designed around the car. Millions of people commute from the suburbs into the city every single day. In almost every location, the car is the only viable option. Since so many people must travel by car, traffic is inevitable. Several hours are wasted everyday by traffic. These hours could be used for work or more family time. Traffic occurs because humans are not perfect drivers and often overact to situations. If even one car breaks too much that will cause the cars behind it to brake and everyone slows down. If a person breaks suddenly and someone else is not paying attention an accident could occur. Many people die from car crashes every single year. Another side effect of traffic is a huge increase in pollution. All those cars are sitting idle with their engines running. This produces huge amounts of carbon monoxide that is released into the atmosphere. Reducing travel time will in turn reduce pollution from vehicles. Cars emit large amounts of greenhouse gas into the atmosphere. One way of solving that problem is
electric cars but often that does not actually reduce pollution. Often that electricity was generated from burning coal which also greatly pollutes the environment. If you reduce, or even eliminate, traffic then you minimize how long the car is running. So, in turn, the amount of pollution is greatly reduced. Either because the car is burning less fuel or the car is using less electricity so less coal needs to be burned.

Self-driving cars that can communicate with each other solve every major problem we currently have with cars. Humans constantly make errors in judgement while driving. Even though many people are afraid of flying, planes are one of the safest forms of travel. Cars are the mode of transportation that is the most dangerous. In 2014 alone, 32,675 people died from car crashes in the United States [1]. While only 761 people have died in plane crashes worldwide [2]. Over the last 30 years, we have been continually making cars safer to drive. First, seatbelts were implemented in vehicles. Once people started to wear them, seatbelts greatly reduced the number of fatalities but it did nothing for the number of crashes. Air bags and crumple zones also reduced the chance of dying in a crash. However, these innovations were not affecting the root of the problem. They were all assuming that getting in an accident was inevitable. Now we have the technology to prevent crashes from ever happening. A self-driving car can see all around itself. It has sensors on all sides constantly gathering and interpreting information. The computer interprets information from these cameras and sensors and chooses the best course of action. The car also receives info from a central system and from the cars around it. That way they can all act to a situation simultaneously. For example, if there would be a slow down several miles down the road, the car would instantly know to attempt to take a different route [3]. Once all cars are self-driving cars, and they can all communicate with each other, there would be no slow-downs or traffic. Since these things are caused by human, self-driving cars would eliminate this problem.

There are two very different and important technologies need to achieve this goal of no traffic. Self-driving and vehicle to vehicle communication are two different but connected technologies. A self-driving car is a car that without any external commands are data and safely navigate itself from one destination to another. External in that definition means not directly part of the car. A sensor attached the car is internal but a sensor on the road is external. However, there are different levels of autonomy ranging from zero to five [5]. Zero being it requires human control 100% of the time and Five meaning it never needs human interaction besides and starting and/or ending location [5]. This is a separate technology from Vehicle to Vehicle communication. This technology allows cars to communicate with each other as well as with a central system. For example, cars can relate traffic information, road condition or other information directly to other cars [3]. This information can be shown on a heads-up display so the driver can see this info and take appropriate action [3]. When these two technologies combine, traffic and even intersections can almost entirely be eliminated. Cars could theoretically time how to safely make it through and intersection without needing to stop [6].
Self-driving cars will revolutionize transportation. It is universally accepted that this is one of the largest changes in transportation. It will affect how we think of cars. It may no longer be necessary to own a car. What if you can just call a driverless Uber to pick you up and go to work. What would be the point of owning a car? Or maybe some people will own cars but during the day, while they are at work, their car will act as an Uber or taxi. The owner would get money for essentially renting out their car. The owner could set during which hours their car is available. Self-driving cars would also greatly affect the trucking industry. Millions of truck drivers may lose their job. If a truck can drive itself from point A to point B, why is a driver needed? However, someone will still need to refuel the truck and unload the truck so not everyone will lose their jobs. Likely at first truck drivers will still be in the cab of the truck monitoring the situation. This is very similar to airplanes and pilots. Before pilots would be in complete control of the aircraft, but now the planes fly themselves for most of the journey and pilots simply monitor the situation. Self-driving vehicles will greatly change transportation.
Traffic is one of the biggest problems in today’s society. So much time is wasted when it could be put to better use. A car that can drive itself and communicate to other cars will eliminate traffic. Millions of people die from car crashes every year. Self-driving cars would also eliminate that issue. A car uses external sensors and cameras to collect info about the world around it and decides what is the course of action. I agree with almost all engineers in this field that self-driving cars will completely change how people and goods get from point A to point B.
[1] “FARS Encyclopedia” National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Accessed 10.30.2016

[2] C. Tolan. “Is 2014 the deadliest year for flights? Not even close” CNN. 7.28.2016. Accessed 10.30.2016

[3] P. Chodrow. Et al. “Demand and Congestion in Multiplex Transportation Networks” PLoS ONE. 9/22/2016, Vol. 11 Issue 9, p1-10. 10p. Accessed 10.30.2016

[4] T. Lassa. “The Autonomous Car Continues to Progress” Motortrend. Accessed 10.30.2016.



NEW SAE INTERNATIONAL STANDARD J3016” SAE International. Accessed 10.30.2016.

[6] R. Azimi. Et al. “Vehicular Networks for Collision Avoidance at Intersections” Accessed 10.30.2016.

I would like to thank the internet for making it so I never have to step foot in library.

University of Pittsburgh, Swanson School of Engineering

Submission Date 11.01.2016

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