The Beverly Hills City Council recently decided to develop a fleet of driverless vehicles in order to cater to public transportation needs throughout the city.
The mayor of Beverly Hills, John Mirisch, was the first to propose a plan for the city to own a fleet of self-driving cars that could be used as an on-demand car shuttle service, connecting various points of the posh Californian city.
Seeing how the prosperous city is merely 5.7 square miles, the venture could be easily deployable. The unanimous vote of the City Council is the first encouraging step in this direction.
"Beverly Hills is the perfect community to take the lead and make this technology a reality," Mirisch states [pdf].
He adds that the continuous developments in the autonomous vehicle industry make his plan "both feasible and safe."
What is more, the city aims to deploy a fiber optic cable network which will bring high-speed internet access throughout Beverly Hills. Once the infrastructure is in place, self-driving cars will be able to easily communicate with both the city's electronic grid and each other.
This is important, as one of the biggest challenges for driverless vehicles is the huge quantity of information that their systems must process in real-time in densely populated areas. The auto industry is investing heavily in new technologies so that the autonomous cars will be fitted to compute the vast amount of data, in order to avoid collisions with pedestrians, other cars or inanimate objects.
It should be mentioned that the present-day semi-autonomous systems rely on lasers, radars, lidars and visual data to navigate, keep the lane in a highway and avoid any sort of collisions. All the information is gathered via a myriad of sensors mounted on the cars, including 3D cameras.
As Ford recently demonstrated, the autonomous driving systems are able to drive smoothly on deserted roads, even in pitch black conditions. However, problems start occurring when the self-driving cars enter urban traffic, as an incident from earlier this year showed.
Beverly Hills' next step in implementing the autonomous vehicle program is to subject the decision to a public consultation. A public summit was already scheduled for this autumn, where demonstration rides and panel discussions with experts will take place.