Could Self-Driving Cars Speed Hurricane Evacuations?

”There are a lot of advantages you can think about,” says Brian Wolshon, thefounding director of the Center for Evacuation and Transportation Resiliency at Louisiana State University. For one thing, even partially autonomous vehicles could improve traffic flow, if there were enough of them. During evacuations, Wolshon says, dense crowding, traffic disturbances, and slower human reaction times tend to depress per-hour traffic volumes, compared to what you’d see during a regular rush hour. If everyone was using, say, Tesla’s Autopilot—which can speed and slow a vehicle in a responsive manner while maintaining lane position (and avoiding rubbernecking)—they could move closer together and at higher speeds, getting more bodies to safety faster. This kind of effect could still be years down the road, though, since “you’d need to have a lot of vehicles with that kind of control to see any real difference in volume,” says Wolshon.