Robotic Road Vehicles

Robotic cars such as Google’s are proven to work on regular streets and roads. The laws of some states (Nevada being first) are being updated to allow robotic cars to be in control.

At this point we can speculate for fun what commercial or utility style vehicles might come first in being updated for robot control, as these seem a prime use case for automation.

One vehicle and job I think could be first are street sweepers, for several reasons. They operate mostly at night in quiet traffic times, they drive quite slowly mostly around slower city streets when sweeping, and they involve overnight shift work for the current operators which is not easy or pleasant. My guess is they don’t involve as much decision making and equipment manipulation as say a snow plow would require, but then again I’m not a street sweeper operator so that may not be the case.

What specialized vehicles or jobs do you foresee robotic vehicle technology moving into?

A new application for robotic car technology

Did you know, 1000s of Road Traffic Control people have been injured when hit by vehicles, 100s have been killed and more will be injured and killed every year. It is one of the most hazardous jobs there is. Here’s some statistics I found from a 5 minute web search:

From: http://www.expertsafetysolutions.com/services/traffic-control.htm

“More than 70 traffic control persons in BC have been injured in the past five years, many of them seriously. Three of them have been killed in that time. Similar statistics exist across Canada.”

From: http://dcnonl.com/article/id35677

“In Ontario about 50 road construction workers have been killed and some 3,500 injured over the last five years…”

What about the idea of taking robotic self-driving car technology like Google is working on, take it out of the car and apply it to a Road Traffic Control robot? I think this would be a simpler case than a self-driving car because the robot doesn’t actually need highly sophisticated navigation for itself. Instead it can use the scanners, cameras and other sensors used by self-driving cars to understand the traffic and pedestrian flows around it, with the result to control the traffic control signs such as stop, slow, move ahead with caution, etc.

The road traffic control market is much smaller that the automobile market but surely it’s a big enough market to support a good sized robotics company and the impact to lives worldwide would be substantial. The technology is surely more than good enough to work for this application with some engineering to adapt it to this use case, and I expect the regulatory, legislation and licensing issues will be much, much less a problem than for building self-driving cars.

Any one else also think this is a good idea?