The Gadget Guy reviews the latest technology for the government and explores related trends and hot topics.
One thing that occasionally appears in science fiction movies without too much fanfare is when the hero hops into an automated car and it drives off to the intended destination. I think one reason a bigger deal isn’t made of this is that driverless vehicles are one of those sorts of technologies we can imagine already having.
Autonomous vehicles have gained popularity in some state legislatures, with as many as 16 states having passed, or in the process of looking at, legislation that legalizes autonomous automobiles, or at the very least defines them more clearly in preparation for further debate on the subject. Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google and a driverless-vehicle advocate, forecasts these types of cars will be available for sale in five years.
With this type of technology now in the immediate horizon, speculation has already begun on how it might first benefit not only government agencies, but also our daily lives. A commentary from Nextgov.com brought up many advantages the United States Postal Service could gain by replacing their fleet of delivery trucks — many of which are more than 15 years old — with driverless ones. The claim is that USPS would save a great deal of money from fewer accidents and better fuel regulation, and the agency also could use the driverless cars for round-the-clock delivery service.
This is where, in my opinion, the benefits of automated vehicles for USPS would end, at least for a while yet. The fact is that most mail receptacles are not in a position where an automated vehicle could reach. Receptacles are sometimes located by the front door or even inside the apartment or office building. This means that, even if the mail truck took over all of the driving responsibilities, a mail carrier is still needed to take the mail to the boxes. Unless there is a major overhaul in the mail system at the consumer end, this is not likely to change.