“Portland’s long history of transportation innovation is about to enter a new chapter. My Goal is to have an autonomous vehicle pilot program in Portland, working for Portlanders, by the end of the year. To the inventors, investors, and innovators, I’m here to say that Portland is open for business.” — Mayor Ted Wheeler, Portland Business Alliance April Forum Breakfast.

Anticipating a future in which driverless cars are commonly used to facilitate transportation, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler has long been a proponent of getting Portland to adapt to the oncoming technology in its initial stages. His goal of attracting automakers to the city to test their driverless vehicles has overcome significant hurdles and is picking up steam.

On April 19th, the mayor and City Commissioner Dan Saltzman announced the Smart Autonomous Vehicles Initiative (SAVI). The initiative authorized PBOT to develop self-driving vehicle policies and seek proposals from automakers that would like to test these vehicles on the city’s road system.

City officials see the many potential advantages the technology can bring to advance Portland’s transportation goals, including Vision Zero’s arduous quest to eliminate all traffic fatalities and serious injuries by 2025. City Council voted unanimously to move forward with the pilot program to attract companies looking to further the technology by testing on public roads.

The Smart Autonomous Vehicle Initiative

SAVI contains four elements that are working in harmony to advance Portland’s top transportation goals. They include:

  1. A proposition for City Council and the general public to review that includes policies that confirm that autonomous vehicles will serve the city’s safety, equity, climate, and economic goals.
  2. Publishing a Request for Information that invites autonomous vehicle (AV) testing to advance stated goals.
  3. Adopting an Interim Administrative Rule that allows AV engineers to apply to test, pilot, or deploy AVs in Portland.
  4. Getting Portlanders involved in shaping new road rules for AVs.

We are now in the fourth phase of the initiative, as PBOT has invited Portland residents to review its Draft Autonomous Vehicles policy. So, whether you welcome the idea of driverless vehicles taking over the roads or are hesitant to give up the wheel, it seems inevitable that these cars will appear on Portland streets.

Top Arguments for Autonomous Vehicles in Portland

Save Lives

The strongest argument in favor of autonomous vehicles is their predicted ability to reduce the number of accident fatalities. According to the CDC, approximately 33,000 lives are lost in car crashes each year. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration pins the blame on drivers, as humans are to blame for 94% of car crashes. Driverless cars are being tested for millions of miles to ensure that they abide all local traffic laws and anticipate accidents, while constantly monitoring road conditions.

Replacing a human driver with a computer can eliminate all of the behaviors that lead to accidents. As computers cannot be distracted or become fatigued or intoxicated, there is enormous potential for saving lives. This capability is directly tied to Portland’s top goal of eliminating the number of fatalities and severe injuries that take place in the city by 2025, the primary objective of Vision Zero.

Reduce Pollution and Improve Air Quality

Driverless cars are designed to operate as efficiently as possible in every which way. By significantly reducing the number of car accidents that take place, driverless cars are expected to greatly reduce congestion, which means fewer cars stalling. They are also expected to bring about more easily accessible taxis, which could lead to a reduction of cars on the roads. These cars are designed with top efficiency in acceleration and braking, which improves fuel efficiency and reduces carbon emissions. Portland hopes to bring electric shared autonomous vehicles that rely on clean energy to help people carpool.

Reach More Citizens

One of Portland’s pressing transportation goals is to fill in the gaps in public transportation that make it difficult for some commuters to get around. Commuters who rely on public transportation, but may be short a mile or two on their route, can employ driverless vehicles instead of needing to own private vehicles. This can lead to an overall reduction in road congestion.

The City of Portland takes pride in adapting to technologies that improve transportation and overall quality of life. For more information about issues impacting safety, well-being, and justice be sure to connect with rizklaw.com. To schedule a confidential appointment to discuss a claim with an attorney, call (503) 245-5677 or email info@rizklaw.com.