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Kansas City prepares from self-driving cars

Posted at 8:02 PM, Nov 25, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-25 21:18:44-05

It will likely be decades before self-driving cars dominate our roadways, but for local transportation experts it's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when.

Last week, Kansas City Scout manager Randy Johnson got a hands on view for the future of automobiles, getting to test drive a Tesla.

"We need to really understand how a Tesla and other vehicles see around them, which will help us in the future engineer the road infrastructure needed for the technology that is coming very rapidly," he said.

Tesla is just one of several companies making large strides when it comes to driverless cars.

"It's very exciting because technology is great and just think of the safety. We could reduce crashes 90-95 percent because that is what human error involvement is in crashes."

Local transportation departments like KC Scout are already looking ahead to what autonomous or even semi-autonomous cars will mean for Kansas City roads.

"Right now is a lot of learning and communication as to what to do, but Scout is very innovative and creative and we want to make sure we are on the forefront and we are ready for when anything changes," said Johnson.

So what might we see as more vehicles become connected to the technology around them like never before.  

RELATED: Kansas City eyes $50 million grant that could ease traffic, put self-driving cars on the roads 

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"One thing may be vehicle to infrastructure -- so the cars can talk to our traffic signals," he said. "When the car is going down the highway these cars will know when the light will turn green, yellow or red. So that gives an advantage to reducing crashes."

Johnson says that will also help with traffic flow. The traffic lights will be able to know how many cars are in an area and adjust its signals to help move traffic more efficiently.

"Those technologies are coming, not out there just yet, but we are preparing ourselves to be there when that opportunity arises," said Johnson.

Kansas City Scout has already met with the U.S. Department of Transportation to discuss the future of driverless cars. Johnson said Scout is willing to test some of the new technology on Interstate 70 as part of its "Road to Tomorrow" program.

"The program is to integrate MoDOT into 21st century technologies," he said. "Really what we did there is we opened up I-70 as a test bed for the world to come to us and say we have some innovations, either autonomous vehicles, truck platooning or whatever it might be, lets bring it to you and lets try it on your highway."-

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Jade DeGood can be reached at Jade.DeGood@KSHB.com.

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