Hands-free driving: Imagining self-driving cars in Kansas City - KCTV5

Hands-free driving: Imagining self-driving cars in Kansas City

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As self-driving cars hit the streets of several major cities in the United States, transportation officials in the Midwest are studying ways to experiment. (KCTV5) As self-driving cars hit the streets of several major cities in the United States, transportation officials in the Midwest are studying ways to experiment. (KCTV5)
KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -

As self-driving cars hit the streets of several major cities in the United States, transportation officials in the Midwest are studying ways to experiment.

In recent years, cars have grown more autonomous with features like parking and lane assist becoming standard equipment on many new vehicles.

Pilot programs for driverless cars in San Fransicso, Austin, Pittsburgh and Boston have gained national attention as automakers and tech companies work together to create the car of the future. And, Kansas City could join their ranks in the coming years.

Robbie Makinen, CEO of the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority (KCATA), said transit officials have been examining ways in which autonomous vehicles could one day fit into Kansas City streets.

"As a transit authority we need to plan for transit for the next 25 years," Makinen said.

He added that he views self-driving cars as a project that could complement existing transportation and smart city endeavors. He explained that the KCATA would eventually like to help launch a pilot program for them in the city, possibly in the next 1-2 years.

"We're not just looking at the idea of a millennial getting in an autonomous vehicle and going to a coffee shop," Makinen said.

Makinen, who has a visual impairment, also noted that self-driving cars could revolutionize transportation for people with disabilities.

While an experimental program could appear in Kansas City soon, widespread use of autonomous vehicles probably won't appear in Kansas City for several years, possibly even decades.

Dr. Bradley Lane studies autonomous vehicles and their impact on public policy at the University of Kansas. 

"They're not coming tomorrow," he said.

Lane said in the next few years many cars will be able to take some control over a vehicle on long stretches of interstate.

Features like lane assist could become a standard issue depending on industry research and consumer acceptance. But, numerous state and federal regulations may require changes or adaptations before Americans can take their hands off the wheel and let their car do all the work.

"It's really the beginning of a major form of revolution in our society," Lane said. "That's just exciting."

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