How Kansas City is prepping for self-driving cars

Artificial intelligence is sweeping the nation across all industries, and cars are no exception. Here’s how KC is preparing for the inevitable arrival of self-driving cars.

pexels-matt-weissinger Tesla driving

How would self-driving cars change KC’s landscape?

Photo by Matt Weissinger via Pexels.

Buckle Up

Self-driving car technology has revved up in recent years.

Las Vegas has an autonomous vehicle (AVs) public shuttle service. Amazon implemented artificial-intelligence systems in its trucks. And Teslas are inching closer to complete independence of human drivers.

AVs haven’t made headlines in the heartland — but that doesn’t mean they won’t. That’s why the Mid-America Research Council (MARC) studied how our region can prepare for self-driving cars.

Here’s what they found.

Getting our roads ready

To get our transit system ready the answer is simple: take care of our current roads.

“The vehicles are being developed to work on the streets we already have,” Amanda Graor told us. She’s the chief innovation officer and deputy director of research services at MARC, and lead on this research.

“The only investment that might be prioritized for AV development right now is making sure the road signs are readable, making sure the lines on the road are painted, or making sure the curbs are in good condition,” said Graor. “And that’s stuff that’s beneficial for everyone.”

Potential roadblocks

But MARC had more complex issues to decipher. Potential roadblocks they found included:

  • Cross-county implementation — what happens if counties have different regulations?
  • The digital divide — how do we make services accessible to those without smartphones?
  • Disability access — accessibility regulations would need to be implemented.

Green lights

But on the flip side, they also noted multiple positives to the new technology (green lights, if you will).

  • Expanding public transportation — on-demand self-driving cars could reach routes traditional busses don’t.
  • Convenience — summoning a self-driving car at any time would be unmatched service.
  • Freedom — people with disabilities, older adults who no longer drive, or people without cars could have more independence.

So while the KC metro isn’t racing into the self-driving car craze, MARC plans for us to be ready when we do.

With all this prepping, Batman himself would be proud.